UNMISS trains military justice sector representatives on key child protection measures
“Children are the future of our young country and I am now fully conversant with my own responsibilities to ensure that they are not being used in any armed action within my area of command,” stated Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Nyok from the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF)
Lieutenant Colonel Nyok was speaking to his military peers in the world’s youngest nation after attending a three-day workshop in Juba organized by the UNMISS Child Protection Unit.
The objective: to educate and train 60 participants from the military justice sector on the rights of children and the need to protect them when armed conflict arises.
Facilitators ran detailed sessions on myriad issues related to child protection, on the psycho-social and economic aftereffects when minors are engaged as combatants; witness or are caught up in attacks on schools; are killed, raped or disabled due to violence; and are denied necessary humanitarian aid. These constitute six grave violations against children.
Attending military lawyers were also thoroughly briefed on existing legal frameworks to protect children, the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on violations of child rights and highlights of the Comprehensive Action Plan on protecting children from participating in armed violence as well as ensuring the separation of child soldiers from movements they may have been enlisted in, their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Upon completing the workshop, Brigadier General Michael Olobo from the Sudan People's Liberation Army shared a way forward that, he believes, will expedite their ability to protect children and have a clean record.
"When we return to our various areas of assignment, we need to orient our soldiers, including senior military officers, on everything we have learned these three days so we can implement the Child Act of 2008 that emphasizes every minor’s rights," said Brigadier General Olobo.
"We need to trickle down this learning from divisions to battalions to platoons and companies, until the message reaches every uniformed personnel," he added.
For his part, the Child Protection Focal Point for South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), Brigadier General Deng Deng Luol acknowledged that while armed groups do their best to free children from the forces, families and communities across South Sudan also need to educate children and young people on the dangers of resorting to violence to resolve disputes.
“Children are the backbone of our beautiful nation and we need to work together, take a whole-of-society approach to protect their rights and their futures,” he stated.
In closing, Alfred Orono, Head of the UNMISS Child Protection Unit, applauded all participants for their committed and positive response to the workshop as well as to implementing relevant provisions of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.
"UNMISS has walked a long road with you and we will continue our support till South Sudan has a unified, professional armed force,” he said.