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Sudan Tribune

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Sudan, Red Cross and UNICEF agree to cooperate to reintegrate Darfur child soldiers

August 14, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — The North Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, the UN children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have signed a memorandum of understanding on the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of children fighting with Darfur rebel groups.

Despite the different campaigns against the recruitment of children in the rebel groups in Darfur by different NGOs in the past, there was not legal framework to demobilize and reintegrate these children in the past.

The North Sudan commissioner for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, Dr Sulaf Eldeen Salih, hailed the role played by ICRC in reuniting children with their families, especially in remote rural areas of Darfur.” We can count on the ICRC in remote areas that other organizations cannot reach,” he said. “The ICRC has never let us down.”

Since the start of the Darfur conflict, the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent have been working to restore contact between family members separated by the conflict, including children associated with armed groups, and to reunite them with their loved ones.

“Governments need to develop policies that meet the challenges facing rapidly increasing numbers of children associated with armed groups and to ensure effective protection of the rights of children,” said Jordi Raich, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Sudan.

“The ICRC urges armed groups to comply with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits in all circumstances the direct participation in hostilities and the compulsory recruitment of persons under the age of 18 years,” he further said.

The signing of the memorandum of understanding represents an important step in the right direction. “It is especially noteworthy that it coincides with the 60th anniversary of the signing of the four Geneva Conventions,” Mr Raich said. “The memorandum can be considered an anniversary gift to the children of Darfur.”

A senior rebel leader, told Sudan Tribune about his efforts to fight the participation of children in the armed conflict in Darfur, but he had regretted the incapacity of UN agencies and NGOs to organise appropriate programme to reintegrate them. “All what they can do is to send them back to their family and many of them return because all what they know is doing war,” he lamented.