South Sudan

Children, Not Soldiers: South Sudan Fact Sheet

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (A/70/836–S/2016/360) issued on 20 April 2016.

Conflict continued throughout the country, with intense clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A in Opposition) and their allied militias, primarily in Unity and Upper Nile States. A peace agreement was signed in August, but fighting continued, with mass displacement of civilians and severe repercussions on children. A total of 1,051 incidents affecting 28,788 children were documented, with 601 incidents in Unity State alone.

The United Nations verified 159 incidents of recruitment and use, affecting 2,596 children. Nearly 70 per cent were attributed to SPLA (110), other government security forces and allied forces, including the Cobra faction of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army, which was integrated into SPLA in 2015. Recruitment and use was also perpetrated by SPLM/A in Opposition (19), Johnson Olony’s armed group (11), the Arrow Boys (4) and the White Army (3). Children wearing military uniforms were spotted throughout the country, especially in the greater Upper Nile region, where they were used in direct hostilities and support roles. First-hand reports were received of children being ordered to kill civilians and loot properties in Unity State. Girls reported being gang-raped and used for sexual purposes. According to the United Nations in the Sudan, some 400 South Sudanese children were also recruited by SPLM/A in Opposition from the Kharasana refugee camp, Western Kordofan, in October.

The United Nations verified 131 incidents of killing and 59 of maiming affecting 480 and 128 children, respectively, a sharp increase compared with 2014. The majority were attributed to SPLA (160), including in Unity State, where soldiers and allied militias reportedly shot at and burned houses with children inside. Incidents were also attributed to the South Sudan National Police Service, SPLM/A in Opposition, Johnson Olony’s armed group and other parties to conflict. Moreover, seven children were killed and maimed in four incidents in United Nations sites for the protection of civilians during exchanges of fire between SPLA and SPLM/A in Opposition. Explosive remnants of war also caused child casualties. A cross-border incident involving SPLA that killed six children and maimed five was documented by the United Nations in the Sudan.

A total of 103 incidents of sexual violence affecting 430 children were verified and attributed to SPLA and other government security forces. Most incidents were documented in Unity State. Boys were reportedly castrated and sexually mutilated, while girls who resisted rape were killed.

Ten attacks on schools by SPLA were verified. They entailed destruction, damage, looting or the recruitment of children. In an incident in Upper Nile State, 36 children were rounded up by Johnson Olony’s armed group, a militia aligned at the time with SPLA, during an SPLA recruitment exercise. They were later released. Eleven attacks on hospitals and health facilities were also verified, with nine attributed to SPLA and two to SPLM/A in Opposition.

As at the end of December, 25 schools were being used for military purposes by SPLA and other government security forces (22) and SPLM/A in Opposition (1). Thirty-six schools were vacated in 2015, mainly through advocacy by the United Nations and joint verifications with SPLA.

There was a dramatic upsurge in the number of incidents of abduction, with 79 verified incidents affecting 1,596 children. The main perpetrators were SPLA (67), the Arrow Boys (5) and SPLM/A in Opposition (4). The largest number of abductions was documented in Unity State. Most children were abducted for recruitment and use. Testimonies of rape while in captivity were also received.

A total of 277 incidents of denial of humanitarian access were verified and included attacks on personnel, destruction of compounds and interference in the delivery of assistance.

The Cobra faction of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army released 1,755 children in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area following advocacy by the United Nations. Children joined reintegration programmes and received support, but some boys were reportedly rerecruited. Since the group’s integration into SPLA, the United Nations has been working with the SPLA Child Protection Unit to release all children.

Child protection provisions were included in the peace agreement signed in August, but United Nations engagement with the parties to conflict yielded few results. Other commitments to protect children were forthcoming, however, and, in January, South Sudan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On 26 December, SPLM/A in Opposition signed an action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use and killing and maiming of children. I am, however, deeply concerned at the scale of violations affecting children and, in line with my call during my visit in February 2016, I urge the leaders of South Sudan to abide by their responsibilities to protect children. I also call upon all parties to turn their multiple commitments into action by stopping the violations against children and releasing the thousands of children from their ranks.


Parties in South Sudan 

  1. Sudan People’s Liberation Armya,b,c,e, • This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).
  2. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Oppositiona,b, • This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).
  3. White Armya

* The parties underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators.

(a) Parties that recruit and use children.
(b) Parties that kill and maim children.
(c) Parties that commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children.
(e) Parties that abduct children.

annual report summary

Click to read a summary of the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict