Khartoum — ARMED forces and rebel groups in South Sudan have defied orders from the international community to recruit child soldiers. Some children as young as 10 years old have been recruited despite international human rights law prohibiting the use of children under 18 in hostilities.
The minors are forced to commit murder and rape, among other grave human rights violations during the civil war afflicting the world's newest country, which has been in crisis since 2013.
Rights groups have advocated for sanctions against the East African country's leaders to halt the illegal recruitment.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the African Union, United Nations, the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development and their member states to impose and enforce an arms embargo on President Salva Kiir, rebel leader Riek Machar, among other leaders implicated.
The fallout between the two leaders has triggered the civil war.
"There's a chance to reverse the tide if the region follows through on its promise to impose sanctions on individual violators of human rights," said Mausi Segun, Africa director at HRW.
"A failure to do so would discredit the region's commitment to stop the abuses in South Sudan."
It is estimated more than 19 000 children have been recruited and associated with armed groups during the civil war.
The United Nations Children's Fund has identified more than 400 child soldiers for demobilization from the forces but the youngsters face social stigma and arrest.