South Sudan commits to making the national army child-free

12 March 2012 Juba, South Sudan – The Sudanese People’s Liberation Army of South Sudan (SPLA) signed an agreement called an action plan with the United Nations today which renewed their commitment to release all children within their ranks. This new action plan, signed by the Ministry of Defence, the United Nations Peacekeeping in South Sudan (UNMISS), UNICEF, and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, also ensures that all militias currently being incorporated into the SPLA are child-free.

Since 2005, the SPLA has been listed on the United Nations Secretary-General’s list of parties to conflict who recruit and use children. Although this action plan is a renewal of commitments made in 2009, the SPLA, as a national army, is signing for the first time.

“This is an important day for South Sudan—the world’s newest country. Not only does this action plan ensure the Government’s commitment that the SPLA will have no children within its ranks, but all armed groups who have accepted amnesty with the Government must also release their children,” said SRSG Coomaraswamy during her remarks at the signing ceremony in Juba. “For this agreement to make a real difference for children, implementation is a must.”

Dr.Yasmin Ali Haque, Representative of UNICEF in South Sudan echoed SRSG Coomaraswamy’s remarks. “This is an excellent example of the newest nation’s army moving in the right direction concerning the protection and well-being of children in South Sudan. The next step is to ensure that the reintegration of these children is successful and sustainable,” she added.

The action plan ensures that a transparent system is in place for disciplinary action against those in command who recruit children within the SPLA. It also improves communication among commanders to make sure that the practice of child recruitment is halted and responsibility for child protection is understood on all levels. Finally, the agreement institutionalizes child protection within the SPLA.

“The children of South Sudan have witnessed so many horrors in this decades-old conflict and many have grown up in war. I urge the Government to implement the commitments made today and to make certain that, in this new country, future generations of children can spend their childhood with books and not in barracks,” Coomaraswamy said.

The signing ceremony takes place on the first day of SRSG Coomaraswamy’s visit to South Sudan.  Her mission will include field visits to Jonglei where she hopes to meet with the Lou Nuer and Murle communities to discuss child protection issues including child soldiers and child abduction, an update of activity of the Lord’s Resistance Army in South Sudan, and the status of returnees from Sudan.

Today’s signing follows similar agreements in 2011 with the Afghan National Security Forces, the Chadian National Army, and with the Armée populaire pour la restauration de la République et la démocratie (APRD) and the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP) in the Central African Republic.

For Further Information:

Twitter: @childreninwar

In Juba:

Timothy La Rose, Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Juba +211 91 217 4064
larose@un.org

In New York:

Muriel Gschwend, Associate Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

+1 917 367 3562
gschwend@un.org

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