UNICEF welcomes child demobilisation in Southern Sudan
MALAKAL, SOUTHERN SUDAN, 24 April 2006 – UNICEF welcomes the renewed process of disarmament and demobilisation of children associated with armed forces and groups in Southern Sudan. The latest demobilisation, of about 250 children in Upper Nile State today, is the biggest of its kind since the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 which commits the parties (the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-SPLM/A and the then Government of Sudan) to child demobilisation throughout the country.
“We are determined to demobilize all child soldiers this year” said Benjamin Goro Gimba, the Executive Director of the Southern Sudan Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration Commission - the Southern Sudan authority in charge of the process - at a ceremony in Upper Nile state today. “It is time for these children to go home, go to school and enjoy the fruits of peace,” added UNICEF Sudan Representative Ted Chaiban.
Since 2001, an estimated 20,000 children from the former southern rebel forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), have been disarmed, demobilised and returned to their families and communities with UNICEF support. However, there are an estimated 2,000 children still associated with the SPLA, mainly in non-combat roles and in hard-to-reach areas. A significant minority are girls whose circumstances and needs often differ from those of boys and require special consideration. In addition, there are an unknown number of under-18s in other armed groups in Southern Sudan. These armed groups were formerly allied to the central government in Khartoum. Since early 2006, many of these forces have re-aligned themselves with the SPLA and are being absorbed.
The children being released today in Khorfulus, near Malakal, are mainly from an armed group, called ‘Mobile’, which recently joined forces with the SPLA. Many live nearby and will immediately rejoin their families. For others, arrangements are being made to transport them home. Policies and procedures developed by the SPLM/SPLA with UNICEF support will apply to the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of children from the other armed groups and the mainstream SPLA equally.
UNICEF has worked with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, now the ruling party of the Government of Southern Sudan to establish sound policies and procedures to release remaining children in the SPLA forces, facilitate tracing of their families, ensure sustainable reintegration into their communities and prevent future recruitment.
UNICEF looks forward to a prompt and effective Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process to remove all children from armed forces and groups throughout Sudan and support the relevant national authorities as well as local and international agencies with financial and other resources to achieve tracing, reunification and reintegration.
UNICEF works with many partners to increase access to education, health, clean water, sanitation and hygiene and a protective environment for all children in Southern Sudan. UNICEF Sudan seeks funding of $16.5 million to support child DDR throughout the country, of which $2.5 million has been received or pledged so far in 2006. More funding will enable a more effective process and a wider range of programmes to meet the needs of these children and other vulnerable children in the community as a whole.
The recruitment or use of children under the age of 18 in armed conflict is contrary to international law and contrary to Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The UNICEF role in relation to the demobilisation and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups in Sudan is stipulated in the peace agreement and forms part of a UN interagency effort including UNDP and the UN peace support mission in Sudan, UNMIS.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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- UNICEF Southern Sudan
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