Workshop seeks to release all child soldiers in South Sudan
23 November 2011 – Aiming at the release of all child soldiers in South Sudan, a three-day workshop to develop an action plan for their demobilization began today in the capital Juba.
A joint endeavour between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and UNMISS Child Protection Unit, the workshop will form the basis for an action plan to renew one signed in 2009, as requested of the SPLA and South Sudanese government in UN Security Council Resolution 1996.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, UN Deputy Representative of the Secretary-General Lise Grande said South Sudan had seen tremendous progress over the past couple years under the first action plan.
"Six hundred child soldiers have been released from the barracks," she noted. "The UN has traveled to more than 50 different barracks and some facilities to see the child soldiers."
Ms. Grande added that the SPLA was being trained by UNMISS Child Protection to identify child soldiers and release them.
"The United Nations is going to support this programme as long as it takes," she said. "We have the confidence that the army and the government are going to be able to get every single child soldier out."
Deputy Minister of Defense Majak Agoth said, "Children are the future of any society. If opportunities and a firm future are not created for our children, we will be lost as a nation because these are people who will run our affairs tomorrow."
Minister Agoth stated that the SPLA and government were committed to discharge all children below the age of 18 who were found in the military.
But he said that lack of services like schools as well as poor economic conditions encouraged children to associate themselves with the military. He called on the ministries of Child Social Welfare and Education to provide training and enroll them in school.
"Our role as the army is to identy and release the children, but what happens to the child later on is the responsibility of other stakeholders," said Mr. Agoth.