Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, reached out to the delegations of the Government of South Sudan and the SPLM/A in opposition during the peace talks held in Addis Ababa this week. She urged both parties to immediately end the recruitment and other grave violations against children and to take concrete measures to protect them from the impact of the conflict.
“I seized the opportunity of the peace talks to ensure that the plight of all innocent children who are victims of this conflict is not forgotten,” declared Ms. Zerrougui. “Both parties recognized the devastating impact of the conflict on children. They are the most vulnerable and are paying the highest price.”
On Saturday, Ms. Zerrougui met with former Vice President and Chairman of the SPLM/A in opposition Dr. Riek Machar. At the end of their meeting, Dr. Machar signed a commitment to immediately end all grave violations against children. He also agreed to cooperate with the United Nations and to provide humanitarian access and assistance to child victims.
“I welcome Dr. Riek Machar’s commitment and count on his leadership to ensure that his signature results in better protection for the children of South Sudan,” said the Special Representative.
Ms. Zerrougui met twice with the Minister of Public Information, Michael Lueth, to discuss ways to mitigate the impact of the conflict on children. She reminded him of his Government’s commitment to fully implement the action plan signed with the United Nations in March 2012. She also stressed the Government’s obligations under the South Sudan Child Act.
The Government of South Sudan had taken positive steps to protect children and acted on measures included in the action plan, but the conflict has erased all progress accomplished.
Mr. Lueth expressed his Government’s willingness to recommit to the action plan, to investigate any allegation of violations against children, and to hold all perpetrators to account.
“I am encouraged by this development and call on both parties to fully respect these engagements. They should issue clear orders to their troops on the ground to immediately stop all violations against children,” declared the Special Representative. “Protecting the country’s future generation has to be everyone’s priority.”
On 9 May 2014, the parties agreed to a ceasefire to end the five-month conflict in South Sudan, which has displaced 1.2 million people, including over 500,000 children. The parties also agreed to facilitate humanitarian access and engage in substantive discussions for the formation of a transitional government and institutional reforms.
The Special Representative also met with Deputy IGAD mediator Lazaro K. Sumbeiywo to discuss concrete measures to operationalize the release and reintegration of children. The Special Representative is encouraged by the signing of the agreement and reminds all actors involved in this process that they have a responsibility to ensure that the protection of children, their release and reintegration must be priorities in its implementation.
Since fighting broke out in December 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President, Riek Machar, up to 9,000 children have been recruited and used in the conflict, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Children have been killed or mutilated in indiscriminate attacks. Women and girls have been raped. Schools and hospitals have also been attacked or used by parties to conflict.
For additional information, please contact:
Stephanie Tremblay, Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General
for Children and Armed Conflict