Parliamentarians learn about child protection

14 Jun 2013

Parliamentarians learn about child protection

13 June 2013 - South Sudan was determined to be removed from the UN Secretary-General's list of parties recruiting and using children in armed conflict, a top official in its army said today in Juba.

The South Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) had stopped recruiting children, although vulnerable children wanting assistance were still seeking refuge in the military, Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) Child Protection Unit Chief Brig. Gen. Chaplain Khamis told to the national legislative assembly lobby group on children at an UNMISS workshop on child protection.

"We have many children who are orphans or not receiving proper care in their communities still trying to join us," he said. "SPLA child protection officers constantly monitor their units and report any cases to the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Commission."

He stressed that child protection was a responsibility across all spheres of leadership in South Sudan.

"We urge you parliamentarians to raise awareness among the communities you represent.

South Sudan signed an agreement with the UN in March 2012, renewing a commitment to release all children from its ranks, following an earlier action plan in 2008. Since 2003, the SPLA has been included on the UN Secretary-General's list of parties to conflict that reportedly recruit and use children.

Members of the parliamentary lobby group on children noted logistical challenges the SPLA faced in raising awareness among communities and pledged to give the necessary support.

"We also need more workshops like this one so that we can get more acquainted with international conventions and learn more about outreach skills," said Mary Nawai, chairperson of the voluntary legislative assembly association that advocates for child rights.

Officials from UNMISS Child Protection and Human Rights sections discussed various topics with the lawmakers, including different international treaties governing child rights, justice for children in South Sudan and strategies to get messages to the grassroots.

Participants called for speedy and fair trials for children in detention, as well as the need for separate specialized laws for juvenile justice procedures.

"It is a great opportunity for us to understand some of these treaties now, as we prepare to develop a permanent constitution," said Benjamin Alek Alier. "When the time comes to pass that constitution, we shall be able to make informed decisions."

The workshop came ahead of the Day of the African Child on 16 June. The theme of this year's commemoration is "Eliminating harmful social and cultural practices that affect children".