An UNMISS-facilitated training on preventing and ending child rights violations in Jonglei receives appreciation
JONGLEI - Senior officers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army - in Opposition (SPLA-iO) have pledged to support every effort to protect children and put a stop to any violations of their rights.
This commitment was undertaken by 50 senior commanders, senior officials of the state prisons service, local police personnel, county authorities and civil society representatives at a training facilitated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) through its Child Protection Unit in Lankien, Jonglei.
The focus of the workshop: To highlight the importance of adhering to the promise of eliminating the six grave violations of children’s rights, a key stipulation contained within the Revitalized Peace Agreement signed in 2018.
These 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.
Major General James Utang had good news to contribute to the forum—an assertion that there were no children associated with his division.
“We shall trickle down the learning we have acquired today to all among our ranks because as commanders of these forces, we must take on this important responsibility that has a tremendous impact on the future of South Sudan,” said the Major General passionately.
“I can confidently state that we have made it a point to not recruit minors into our ranks since 2013 and we will also ensure that this is not merely limited to Jonglei but also to our counterparts in other states such as Western Equatoria and Bahr El Ghazal,” he asserted.
For another senior commander attending the training, Major General Peter Kuem Yoak, promoting awareness and understanding of the key priority areas related to these grave violations among junior members of his cadre, encouraging them to report on any instance of children being recruited into armed combat, is of paramount importance.
“The urgent need to prevention, monitor, and report such child rights violations will be disseminated to the lowest levels of our forces,” he assured.
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 participating commanders 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.
This is vital, according to Willian Kuol Chol, state Minister for Gender, Child and Social Welfare in Jonglei.
“It is one of the primary stipulations in the Revitalized Peace Agreement and critical for us to protect our children because they are going to be future leaders,” said Minister Chol simply but eloquently.
For Nyirol County Commissioner James Bol Makuei, such trainings are the bedrock for establishing a sustained peace in the country.
“While UNMISS and other international and regional partners are here to help, we, as citizens also must bear our share of responsibility to usher in a more peaceful, prosperous tomorrow for our youth and children. Protecting children, therefore, is a collective responsibility and I will pass this message to everybody in my community,” he said.
His local law enforcement counterpart, Brigadier General John Deng Woos from the South Sudan National Police Service agreed and appreciated the technical and capacity building support provided by UNMISS and partners.
UNMISS continues to support forces who are parties to the peace accord to implement the Action Plan. The United Nations Country Task Force monitors and reports on the progress implementations, helping and guiding the forces to work towards becoming a unified, professional army.