“I take the opportunity to inform the public and those who are concerned about the misuse of children. Children are future assets that have to be safeguarded, developed so that they become leaders of their own country.
Our laws stipulate that recruitment and use of children is a crime. Any soldier who recruits or uses children will be severely punished.”
These days, listeners of the United Nations Radio Miraya in South Sudan can hear the country’s Defense Minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, talking about the importance of protecting children from the impact of war.
The messages are part of a campaign to sensitize the general public, but also the country’s soldiers and opposition groups, that recruiting and using children is illegal and that they should do all they can to protect them from conflict.
Other messages recorded by 2 military officials explain that orders have been issued to ban the recruitment of children and the military use of schools, and detail sanctions for those who do not respect the law. Additional messages are expected to be produced in the coming days.
“Recruitment of children is punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years,” says the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s legal advisor in one of the messages.
South Sudan is one of seven countries involved in the campaign “Children Not Soldiers” – a global campaign to end the recruitment and use of children in government security forces in conflict by the end of 2016.
South Sudan first signed an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in 2009. After the country’s independence, a new action plan was signed, but most of the progress accomplished was erased by the conflict that started in December 2013.
During a June 2014 visit by the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, the Government of South Sudan formally renewed its commitment to the Action Plan.
The June agreement recalls the measures of the 2012 Action Plan and includes: releasing all children associated with government security forces, providing services for their family reunification and reintegration; investigating grave violations against children and holding perpetrators accountable. The Government also committed to ending all grave violations committed against children.
The radio campaign launched this week in Juba aims to fulfil one of the requirements of the action plan and is designed to raise awareness about the importance of protecting children.
“It is the responsibility of every citizen. If a child has been recruited by any army, I have to be informed,” concluded the Minister of Defense in his radio message.
Listen to the messages: