UN protecting children in Jonglei

4 Apr 2013

UN protecting children in Jonglei

4 April 2013 - Conflicting communities in Jonglei State were using children as weapons of war and triggering further violence, an UNMISS official said today in the state capital Bor.

"(When) cattle raiders fail to get cattle, they abduct children (instead)," said UNMISS Jonglei Child Protection Officer Ephraim Abwe Diabe. "Child abduction is... related to cattle rustling, inter-communal violence and retaliatory attacks."

Mr. Diabe said UN organizations were working with the government to protect children caught by conflict in the state, either as abductees or recruits in the armed forces.

"Children are the future of this young country," said State Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Rachael Omot. "If you see a child who is suffering, do not ignore him."

She noted that UNMISS had provided logistical assistance in tracing, identifying and reuniting children with their families.

Mr. Diabe said UNMISS had helped trace and reunify 120 child soldiers in Jonglei released from the ranks of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in October last year.

UNICEF Bor Child Protection Specialist Angelina Mwau said the organization had also helped demobilize 49 children associated with David Yau Yau forces in Pibor County in 2011.

She added that UNICEF was also engaged in talks to pave way for the release of 35 children in the forces of James Kuburin, a former militia leader previously allied to David Yau Yau, who surrendered to the SPLA in December 2012.

Mr. Diabe said UNMISS had spotted, identified and verified the existence of children among the SLPA in both Akobo and Pibor counties, but that it was difficult to establish specific data.

Aiming to build the capacity of local stakeholders on child rights, UNMISS had trained eight SPLA officers as Trainers of Trainers at army headquarters in Bor County's Pan Pan Diar township, the UNMISS official said.

He added that more child rights' campaigns starting this month were scheduled for SPLA officers in Pibor, Akobo, Pariak and Waat localities in the state.

Besides the army, UNMISS also trained 40 social workers from the state Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare.

In November last year, a team comprising of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, UNMISS, Radio Miraya and Radio Jonglei concluded several radio campaigns encouraging communities to stop child abduction.

Ms. Mwau said that several challenges, such as the nomadic lifestyle of the communities, poor roads and insecurity, were affecting the progess of efforts to protect children.

She added that some children did not want to leave the armed forces, due to lack of support in the communities.

"It is all about power, security and food," the UNICEF official said. "In Jonglei, a child sees (more advantages of being) in the army than outside it."

"There can be no sustainable reintegration without a good reintegration package...to help the child start a new life away from the (armed forces)," said Mr. Diabe.