At the end of her visit in South Sudan, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, called for the full implementation of the Action Plan signed by the Government to end the recruitment and use of children in the country’s national security forces.
“I am pleased that the Government recommitted to the Action Plan,” said the Special Representative. “But the real work begins now and I will not rest until I see children released from the ranks of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, accountability for those who have recruited them and progress that makes a real difference in children’s lives.”
During her visits to Bentiu, Bor, Pibor and Gumuruk, Leila Zerrougui met with local Government officials. She saw several children recruited by the SPLA and armed groups. She visited schools used by the military, a hospital looted and saw the massive population displacements caused by the conflict and the threat of inter-communal violence.
In a meeting on Monday, the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, agreed to work with the United Nations to ensure his security forces become and remain child free. The President also recognized the importance of protecting education in times of conflict and promised to vacate all schools used by the military.
In Gumuruk, she met with David Yau Yau, the leader of the South Sudan Democratic Movement\Army, an armed group with a large number of children in its ranks. He recognized he is using children and declared he was ready to collaborate with the United Nations to release them.
“Reintegrating all the children recruited and used by all parties must be a priority and I call on the international community to provide sufficient resources to help these children take back their lives and create alternatives so they can grow up to become productive citizens,” Zerrougui said.
She added that an inclusive peace process that takes children’s needs into account is essential to resolve the crisis and build durable peace.
“Accountability is another key element,” she declared. “There is no reconciliation possible if those who killed, maimed, raped, recruited and used children never face justice.”
The Special Representative travelled to South Sudan with artist and UNESCO Special Envoy Forest Whitaker. During the visit, he formally announced his support for the campaign Children, Not Soldiers, which aims to end the recruitment and use of children by Government security forces by 2016.