Senior uniformed personnel sensitized on protecting child rights
EASTERN EQUATORIA – “As soldiers we need to understand that children are particularly vulnerable when armed conflict breaks out,” revealed Leila Khamis, an officer from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – in Opposition (SPLA-iO) based in Kapoeta, Eastern Equatoria.
Leila was speaking at a training activity organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) where 30 senior officers of the SPLA-iO were sensitized on human rights and international humanitarian law, including upholding the rights of women and children.
“As a military officer and a mother, I believe I have truly learned important things from this workshop,” she continued. “I will trickle down the knowledge I have acquired to my junior colleagues as well as in my own community,” she added.
Leila wasn’t the only one appreciating this outreach effort by the UN Peacekeeping mission.
“This workshop makes many key issues related to preventing children from joining armed groups,” said Brigadier Mohamed Lotede Lokwar, the SPLA-iO Division Commander in Kapoeta. “This is of great help to us in educating our commanders in the cantonment sites.”
For her part, UNMISS Child Protection Officer, Camila Tortoriello is confident that the skills gained by participating officers will help strengthen protection of children in conflict environments.
“We want forces to be aware of their responsibility and also to take an active role in protecting children. We are here to support and provide technical guidance, but the main responsibility for upholding child rights lies with the forces and the Government of South Sudan, especially when it comes to preventing the six grave violations of children’s rights.
These grave violations consist of the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, abductions, and the denial of humanitarian access to children in need.
Upholding the promise to adhere to ending these egregious offences is a key stipulation contained within the Revitalized Peace Agreement signed in 2018.
The long-term objective when it comes to such advocacy is to protect and prevent the occurrence of grave violations against children perpetrated by armed forces and groups. This would ensure that South Sudanese armed groups will, finally, be removed from what is known as the ‘list of shame’.
The list being referred to is part of the UN Secretary-General’s report on the situation of children in armed conflict and contains national armies and other military groups known to violate one or more of the six grave violations.
The workshop brought together participants in interactive sessions that dealt with myriad issues related to major violations of child rights. It also gave participants insight into the Comprehensive Action Plan signed in 2020 that is the roadmap towards stopping such egregious offences.
Such consistent engagements from the UN Peacekeeping mission, humanitarian partners, national military actors and the Government of South Sudan is necessary as this young nation begins to galvanize efforts towards establishing its Necessary Unified Forces.