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SPLM/A-IO forces in Ayod county agree to release children

September 11, 2019 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s armed opposition forces (SPLM/A-IO) soldiers stationed in Mogok Phow in Ayod County have committed to collaborating with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and aid agencies to release any children found in their ranks.

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Child soldiers sit with their rifles at a ceremony held on 10 February 2015 as part of a disarmament campaign overseen by UNICEF and partners in Pibor (AFP)

Speaking at a workshop organized by the Child Protection Unit of UNMISS, a SPLM/A-IO representative said that they are willing to allow the UN inspect their troops and remove children in their ranks.

“We then recommend that the UN and its agencies help us with the reintegration of the children into their communities and back to their families,” Captain Tutyian Kuang Ayang told UNMISS.

“Some of the children are in the military because they are orphaned and see joining the army as a means of engaging themselves,” he added.

Rebecca Corn, a Child Protection Officer Rebecca, said the protection of children is essential for sustainable peace and reiterated that UNMISS will continue to work together with the parties to the conflict to make sure children’s rights are not being violated.

Although both the government and opposition forces in South Sudan have signed a comprehensive national action plan aiming to protect children from what are known as the six grave violations, a lot of work remains to fully implement the agreed action plan.

South Sudan is reported to still have thousands of children serving with one armed group or another, amid several reports of abductions and sexual violence against boys and girls in the war-torn nation.

The two-day workshop, organized by UNMISS, was attended by at least 50 SPLM/A-IO soldiers.

(ST)