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Canadian envoy urges South Sudan to end use of child soldiers

Author: Nyathong William | Published: Monday, February 12, 2024

FILE: Newly released child soldiers wait in a line for their registration during the release ceremony in Yambio, South Sudan - courtesy

The Canadian Ambassador to South Sudan has called for an end to the recruitment of children to armed forces as the country commemorates International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers.

Also known as ‘Red Hand Day’, the event, marked on every February 12, aims to remind the international community to strengthen efforts in ending the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts.

On Monday, the National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission in partnership with UNICEF, UNMISS, Dallaire Institute commemorated the Day under the theme: By my handprint, I say NO to Recruitment of Children as Soldiers.

Addressing the occasion, Canadian Ambassador Aly-Khan Rajani said South Sudan’s liberation struggle and civil wars, have been flawed with loss of many lives – with children paying the highest price.

According to Mr. Rajani, children in South Sudan were often recruited as soldiers, an unthinkable abuse, which denies them their most basic needs and experience.

“Children often paid the highest cost and the highest price. Whether being recruited as soldiers, being denied their most basic needs, or experiencing unthinkable abuse,” he said.

“These are things no child should ever have to experience. And as I am making this speech, I am conscious today that we have in this crowd, amongst us, people who have experienced these very events, and I want to say thank you for your strength.”

The Western envoy calls on South Sudan authorities to reflect on the many values that forced the country to fight for independence and cease the recruitment of child soldiers.

“(Independence) is a chance to reflect on the many values that drove South Sudan’s independence movement. Freedom, democracy, human rights, self-determination, the right to choose one’s own destiny,” he said.

On his part, the Director of Child Protection at the South Sudan People’s Defence Force (SSPDF), Major General Chaplain Khamis said the government is committed to ending the recruitment of children in armed forces.

He also said the SSPDF is yet to screen the peace forces in the cantonment sites to determine if there are still child soldiers or not, and the report will be made public.

“SSPDF are committed to become a child free army, and they are committed to say no for recruitment of children in the army,” Chaplain said.

“What is actually pending, and we are thinking about it is the remnants of the opposition parties that are still in their cantonment.”

“I think when they come for the second base, we don’t know whether still they are going to come with the children or not, but will still screen.”

In April 2018, more than 200 child soldiers were freed in Western Equatoria State, according to the UN children agency UNICEF.

UNICEF data at the time showed that around 19,000 children were serving in the ranks of armed forces and groups in the country.

 

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