Wau — Authorities in South Sudan's Western Bahr el Ghazal state launched a recruitment drive Tuesday to get young men and women to join the army and fight anti-government forces.
The recruitment drive was announced last week by Elia Kamilo Dimo, the state minister for Youth and Sport, and began Tuesday.
Dimo told traditional leaders that the young recruits would be trained to support SPLA troops on the frontlines and help to regain territories captured by rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, whom President Salva Kiir has accused of attempting to oust him, triggering more than three weeks of violence in the country.
Dimo said tents would be set up "across Wau town and also in the counties and the reason behind this is to mobilize the youth and register a good number of them to join the SPLA."
To fund the recruitment drive, at least five pounds will be deducted from civil servants' pay this month, Dimo said.
The initiative, which got under way as delegates from both sides in the conflict in South Sudan met in Addis Ababa to discuss a ceasefire and the status of 11 political leaders who were detained by the government in the days following the outbreak of fighting, got a mixed reaction from residents of the state.
"It is not good. They will increase the problem," state health department worker Machok James said, warning that recruiting young people to fight could negatively impact the talks in Addis Ababa.
Marcelina Gabriel, a mother of five who lost her husband in Sudan's long civil war, also spoke out against the idea of recruiting youngsters to fight.
"I am a widow and left with five children and the government wants my children, wants them to be killed in war. People should leave this kind of idea so that our children can grow up... I don't accept any child to go for war," she said.
But university student Mario Maiwen said he is ready to drop his studies and enlist to fight on the frontline.
"This issue of military recruitment is something very important because when there is a lot of military personnel, so they can protect our country and also our citizens," he said.
"It's good for us to join... so that we can and correct what is happening in the country," he said.
At least 1,000 people have been killed since violence broke out in Juba just over three weeks ago and quickly spread around the country.
Western Bahr el Ghazal is one of just three of South Sudan's 10 states that have not been affected by the conflict.