Central Equatoria SPLA commanders learn about human rights

10 Nov 2011

Central Equatoria SPLA commanders learn about human rights

9 November 2011 - In an effort to sensitize South Sudanese security forces about human rights, gender and child protection, UNMISS held a workshop for Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) officers today in Magri, Central Equatoria State.

The training, held at the town's military barracks, was organized by the mission's human rights, gender and child protection sections.

Attended by 40 brigade commanders, the workshop also aimed at encouraging army officers to respect and protect human rights as well as to implement human rights standards.

UNMISS Human Rights Officer Emilya Cermak said the activity would create a link between the SPLA, South Sudan Human Rights Commission and UNMISS Human Rights in addressing human rights concerns, and provide tools for the SPLA to address human rights cases.

"We wanted to target the security forces and the SPLA (which has a human rights focal point) is one of our counterparts that we wanted to train," Ms. Cermak said.

SPLA Deputy Chief of Operations Brig. Gen. Machar Gol Deng said the workshop informed commanders of their rights as well as those of others.

"We are just a new nation like a child," he said. "We need more awareness ... and even to extend it to our schools so that our little children will know their rights."

During the session on gender issues, many participants were surprised to learn that women could enjoy equal opportunities with men in areas like employment, customs and education.

Discussing protection concerns, SPLA officers told the UN team that there were no child solders in the camp. "I stay here with my children, but that doesn't mean they are child soldiers," Brig. Gen. Deng said. He added that all child soldiers were released immediately after the country's peace accord was signed (six years ago).

Participants requested that UNMISS provide schools for children who were staying at military camps so that they could obtain a better education.

"My children don't go to school because I stay here and there is no school," said Medelena Nyror, a 40-year-old woman who joined the movement in 2004. "When they grow, I think they will become soldiers because they see ... soldiers every day."

She took care of her children when her husband was in the army before she herself joined, Ms. Nyror added. "It was very difficult for me to provide things like education for them, but now I want them to learn."