Two-day child protection workshop facilitated by UNMISS concludes in Lakes

UNMISS protection of civilians child protection armed conflict child soldiers peacekeepers South Sudan peacekeeping Rumbek

The UNMISS Child Protection Section recently held a training for 50 commanders of the South Sudan Peoples Defense Forces in Rumbek to sensitize them on the pressing need for upholding child rights and protecting children during armed conflict. Photo by James Mawien Manyuol/UNMISS.

21 Nov 2021

Two-day child protection workshop facilitated by UNMISS concludes in Lakes

James Mawien Manyuol

RUMBEK - Protecting the rights of every child, especially during armed conflict is a key goal for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

In this regard, the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Child Protection Section, organized a workshop to educate some 50 participants, drawn from the South Sudan Peoples Defense Forces, in Rumbek, Lakes state, on the need to ensure every child is safe and identifying as well as preventing the six grave violations against children, which frequently occur when violence erupts in any nation.

These consist of the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, killing and maiming, sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, abductions, and the denial of humanitarian access to children in need.

Major General Chaplain Khamis, Director of Child Protection for the SSPDF urged participating military officers to fully comprehend the need to end such violations against minors and raise awareness among their fellow soldiers on the same.

“Let us all memorize these grave rights violations and ensure that they never take place under our watch,” stated the Major General. “Children should never be enlisted to take up arms; their place is in school so that they are equipped with education and can lead us into a prosperous, peaceful future.”

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 young nation has made some progress in ensuring all children are protected from armed conflict: By adopting the Comprehensive Action Plan to stamp out violations of the rights of these children, both the South Sudan’s People Defense Forces and the main opposition force have been moved from Section A to Section B of the Secretary-General’s annual report, in recognition of the country’s efforts to implement the action plan and commit to ending grave child rights violations.

In fact, as recently as 18 November 2021, seven boys, aged between 14-17 years of age associated with the SSPDF, have been released in Lakes State by the National Technical Committee tasked with ensuring the full implementation of the Comprehensive Action Plan. The Technical Committee was ably supported by the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR), co-chaired by UNMISS and UNICEF.

 “The release of these children is a result of a close collaboration between the CTFMR and the national authorities and is a clear example of the effectiveness of state level technical committees in ensuring children are extended full protection and their rights consistently upheld,” said Alfred Orono Orono, Head, UNMISS Child Protection. Eleven State Technical Committees have been established across the country, including in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, to further enhance implementation of the Action Plan.  

But more remains to be done to end this scourge completely.

For her part, Angelina Ding Mario, state Minister for Gender, Child and Social Welfare, said she believed that such workshops remind soldiers of their responsibilities as military officers to protect minors.

“Workshops like the one everybody is attending today builds our capacities. All 50 participants, when they return to their offices or barracks will be able to trickle down this learning to their peers and subordinates. In this way, we can ensure that our children never have to pick up arms again,” she averred passionately. “The government is fully committed to protecting children and so should everybody.”