South Sudan

Children, Not Soldiers: South Sudan Fact Sheet

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/69/926–S/2015/409) issued on 5 June 2015.

The political landscape in South Sudan changed dramatically in the wake of heavy fighting that broke out in Juba on 15 December 2013. Although the onset of the conflict was sparked by political issues, an ethnic dimension quickly evolved and had devastating effects for children. There was a large increase in the number of violations in 2014, with a total of 514 verified incidents affecting 16,307 children. A detailed account of the effects of the armed conflict on children in South Sudan is available in my recent report to the Security Council, covering the period from 1 March 2011 to 30 September 2014 (S/2014/884).

Eighty-one incidents of recruitment and use of children were verified, affecting 617 children (612 boys, 5 girls). The majority were associated with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) (310) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) (108), but also with the South Sudan National Police Service, the South Sudan Wildlife Service, the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army-Cobra Faction (SSDM/A-CF), the White Army and armed groups allied to Gabriel Tanginye. Unverified large numbers of children have also been observed with the Johnson Olonyi armed group, whose troop integration into SPLA was pending completion as at April 2015, and with other unidentified armed actors. Children were at risk of recruitment in refugee and internally displaced persons camps, protection of civilian sites and in their own communities. Given the challenging security situation and safety concerns for children, it has not always been possible to verify information. Last, as reported in the section of the present on the Sudan, in January and February, 64 boys, aged 14 to 17 years, were reportedly recruited by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Unity State, South Sudan. Fifty-five of those cases were verified.

Ninety children were verified killed and 220 injured. There was also a disturbing increase in the incidents of killing and maiming of children reported to the United Nations that could not be verified. One report identified up to 490 bodies of children in mass graves found around Bor following heavy fighting at the start of the conflict. Some of the reported incidents suggest that children were summarily executed. For instance, following the fighting in Rubkona and Bentiu towns in April, two boys were found dead with their hands tied behind their back outside a mosque that was used by civilians seeking protection. The affiliation of the perpetrators is unknown but the incident occurred during an exchange of fire between SPLA and SPLA-IO. In another incident, the United Nations received testimonies from boys aged 14 to 17 years in Juba who had been detained by security forces and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, such as beatings and being urinated upon, during interrogations about ethnic affiliation and involvement in the conflict.

Rape and other forms of sexual violence were reported, with a total of 22 incidents verified affecting 36 children (4 boys and 32 girls) by SPLA (24), JEM (4), SPLA-IO (1) and unknown perpetrators (7). In April, when SPLA-IO took control of Bentiu, hate speech calling upon persons to kill and commit sexual violence against non-Nuers and foreigners was broadcast on local radio.

There were seven incidents of attacks on schools, including looting, and 60 involving military use. Thirty-four schools in use, some before the reporting period, were vacated following United Nations advocacy; as at December, 33 reportedly remained in use by numerous armed actors, affecting access to education for approximately 11,000 children. A total of 22 incidents of attacks on medical clinics and health centres were also verified. In one incident in April, Bentiu Hospital was attacked by SPLA-IO, and medical staff, patients and civilians seeking protection inside the hospital, were killed.

Thirty-four incidents of abduction were verified affecting 147 children (52 boys, 95 girls). The United Nations received worrisome reports of large -scale abductions, including up to 105 children (29 boys, 76 girls) by SPLA-IO in Malakal in February. As at April 2015, abductions continued in large numbers.

One hundred and ninety-nine incidents of denial of humanitarian access were verified, representing a large increase from 2013. Incidents included forceful entry into compounds, looting, seizure of assets and harassment of humanitarian workers.

No incidents of LRA attacks involving children were reported in South Sudan. However, a total of 43 children either escaped or were rescued from the group. Twenty-eight of them have since been reunified with their families, while the rest remain in the interim care centre in Yambio, Western Equatoria State, pending family tracing and reunification.

Family tracing and reunification remained a challenge, owing partly to limited access or no access for child protection actors to some areas. Rapid response missions were occasionally conducted to provide basic, life-saving assistance to children in hard-to-reach areas. During a meeting with my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, the leader of the South Sudan Democratic Army — Cobra Faction (SSDM/A-CF), David Yau Yau, acknowledged that he had recruited children and declared himself ready to release them. As at April 2015, over 750 children had been released to the United Nations and were receiving interim care, psychosocial support and education service.

My Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict visited South Sudan in June to assess the impact of the conflict on children and engage with national authorities. During her visit, the President committed to issuing a decree criminalizing the recruitment and use of children and to issuing command orders to stop the military use of schools. My Special Representative also witnessed the signature of the recommitment by the Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs to the action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. The recommitment also included stopping and preventing sexual violence, the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals. In August, a workplan to implement the agreement was endorsed. In October, the Government and the United Nations launched the campaign entitled “Children, Not Soldiers” at the national level. Following extensive advocacy, the Government and the United Nations also established a joint high-level committee on children affected by armed conflict. In May, the leader of SPLA-IO also signed a commitment agreement with my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to end violations against children.

As at the end of 2014, neither the Government nor SPLA-IO had made any progress in implementing their commitments. On the contrary, reports of violations, particularly recruitment and use and abduction of children, continue unabated. I call upon all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to stop all violations against children and to take all necessary measures, including through prompt and thorough investigations and prosecution, to hold perpetrators to account. I urge the Government of South Sudan to take concrete measures and fully implement the action plan and the recommitment agreement signed in June. I also urge SPLA-IO to implement the commitment that its Chair signed with my Special Representative in May

Parties in South Sudan 

1.       Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)a,b,*
2.       Opposition armed groups, including former SPLA in oppositiona,b
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

*This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).