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280 child soldiers (some as young as 11) surrender weapons in South Sudan •3,000 to be discharged

By News Express on 28/01/2015

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners have secured the release of nearly 3,000 child soldiers in war-torn South Sudan, 280 of whom were discharged on Tuesday.

“Recruited by the South Sudan Democratic Army Cobra Faction led by David Yau Yau, the children range in age from 11 to 17 years old,” UNICEF said in a press release.

“Some have been fighting for up to four years; many have never attended school,” it added.

According to UNICEF, 280 child soldiers were discharged on Tuesday at Gumuruk village in Jonglei State.

They turned in their weapons and uniforms in a ceremony overseen by South Sudan’s National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission.

“These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience,” said UNICEF’s South Sudan representative, Jonathan Veitch.

UNICEF said the remaining children would be discharged in phases next month, describing the move as “one of the largest ever demobilizations of children.”

Yau Yau, a former theology student, ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2010 general elections for the Gumuruk Boma seat in the Jonglei State Assembly.

He accused the ruling party of fraud and voter intimidation before launching his own rebellion.

Yau Yau signed a cease-fire with the government in June 2011, but in April 2012, he defected again.

In May 2014, the government and the rebel leader signed a peace agreement and Yau Yau was made administrator of the newly-formed Greater Pibor administration.

Discharged child soldiers are being provided with basic healthcare, protection, food, water and clothing.

They will soon have access to education, while UNICEF will attempt to reunite them with their families.

“The release of thousands of children requires a massive response to provide the support and protection these children need to begin rebuilding their lives,” said Veitch.

UNICEF has put the cost of reintegrating each child for two years at some $2,330.

According to the UN agency, 12,000 children, mostly boys, have been recruited and used as soldiers by armed forces and groups in South Sudan in 2014.

South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, has been shaken by violence since late 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice president, Riek Machar, of leading a failed coup attempt against his regime.

Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have since been displaced in fighting between the two rivals, close to two million have been uprooted from their homes, and hundreds of thousands now seek shelter in refugee camps scattered across the country.

•Credit (except headline): Anadolu Agency. Photo shows South Sudanese child soldiers.

Source News Express

Posted 28/01/2015 11:29:44 AM

 

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