UNMISS supports formation of Western Equatoria State committee to end grave violations of children’s rights
A technical committee has been formed to implement the comprehensive action plan to end and prevent grave violations against children in Western Equatoria State.
“Over the last three days, we have been trained on how to raise awareness among community leaders and army commanders in the barracks to not recruit children to armed groups and to release those who have already been recruited,” says social worker Veronica Annie Michael, the newly elected co-chair of the State Technical Committee.
The content of the three-day workshop, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and some its partners, came as an informative surprise for some participants.
“Learning about these kinds of violations of children’s rights has been a real eye opener. It is a wake-up call for me to take these things seriously within my unit, and to teach my fellow commanders about these issues as well,” says Commander Brigadier Karlos Philip, representing the Sudan’s People Liberation Army in Opposition.
The six grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict to be dealt with by the new committee 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.
The committee’s work will continue until the action plan, signed by the parties to the revitalized peace agreement on 7 February, is fully implemented.
An added bonus of eradicating grave violations in the country would be the removal of both the South Sudanese army and the armed branch of the main opposition group from the so called “list of shame”. This list, part of the UN Secretary-General’s reports on the situation of children in armed conflict, contains national armies and other military groups known to violate one or more of the six grave violations.
“The action plan is a road map on how to clear the name of South Sudan from the list,” says Major General Chaplain Khamis Edward, a child protection officer working for the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces. “I want to assure you that we will work hand in hand with this committee to make this happen,” he added.
Some progress towards this end has already been achieved: 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 Annex A to Annex B, which lists armed groups who have taken significant steps to address these problems.
“Establishing the State Technical Committee means that we are turning words into action. Children must be properly protected and not harmed by being used by armed forces,” says Christopher Murenga, head of the peacekeeping mission’s field office in Western Equatoria State.
The committee is composed of representatives from, among others, the parties to the revitalized peace agreement, line ministries of the transitional government of national unity, the National Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef), the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and members of the country taskforce responsible for monitoring and reporting on violations of children’s rights.