UNMISS supports training for a child-free SPLA
Senior officers in the South Sudanese army (SPLA) have been meeting in Juba with a view to getting removed from the list of shame that bears names of perpetrators of grave violations against children.
“We need to be serious to clear our names from the bad list,” declared Lieutenant General Johnson Juma, the deputy chief of defense forces, as he opened a two-day workshop in the country’s capital.
“Most times we carry blanket blames on violations committed by other armed groups,” added Lt. Gen. Juma, referring to the SPLA’s efforts to end the use of children in armed conflict through disarmament initiatives in Juba in 2008 and 2009, and again recently in Yambio and Pibor.
Sponsored by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), this week’s meeting brought together 50 senior SPLA officers, drawing from the force’s child protection, training, and disarmament units, as well as officers from the mechanized brigade.
Speaking at the workshop, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and United Nations humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, Alain Noudéhou acknowledged the seriousness that the SPLA attached to being delisted, by travelling from across the country to attend the workshop.
Mr. Noudéhou noted that the SPLA had been “listed for killing and maiming; recruitment and use; abductions and rape, and sexual violence against children, all constituting the six grave violations against children in armed conflict.” He, however, suggested a possible way out of this list of shame for the South Sudanese armed forces.
“Working together with the CTFMRM [Country Task Force on the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism] in the implementation of the Action Plan in the prevention of these violations, the SPLA can be considered for de-listing,” said Mr. Noudéhou. “Accordingly, it is important that a new recommitment agreement for the implementation of the Action Plan be signed with specific timelines,” he added.
The senior UN official promised support if this new recommitment agreement was reached.
“The UN is ready to work and support the process including the verification process and therefore will support the re-establishment of the National Task Force composed of the members of the CTFMRM and the government and SPLA to oversee the implementation of the Action Plan,” he said.
Noting that the SPLA continues to be reported as committing violations, he expressed hope that at the end of the workshop, the participants would come up with concrete steps towards delisting of the SPLA, and the prevention of the recurrence of conditions that led to the listing in the first place.
State and non-state actors in conflict get listed if they commit any of the six grave violations against children, which are: recruitment and use of children; killing and maiming of children; sexual violence against children; attacks against schools and hospitals; abduction of children, and denial of humanitarian access.
The workshop was organized by the SPLA, in collaboration with UNMISS, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the National Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, giving participants an opportunity to learn more about these grave violations.
“This is in line with protection of children and human rights,” said Alfred Orono Orono, head of UNMISS’ Child Protection Unit during the workshop. “South Sudan parliament recently passed an act to take care of street children, and children with no parents,” he said, noting it was a positive move to end child suffering in South Sudan.