South Sudan: Rebels Free Over 100 Child Soldiers

Khartoum — REBEL groups in war-torn South Sudan have this week released more than 100 child soldiers.

The 128 minors, consisting of 90 boys and 38 girls, have been freed from the ranks of the Sudan People's Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM).

This, the fourth release ceremony in 2018, brings the total number of minors released by rebel groups this year to over 900.

However, 19 000 children still serve in the ranks of armed groups and armed forces since South Sudan degenerated into war in 2013, two years after independence in Sudan.

Mahimbo Mdoe, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) representative in South Sudan, the world's newest country, said progress made this year gave them reason to hope all children in the ranks of warring parties would be able to return to their families.

"Until that goal is achieved, the work to end the use and recruitment of must children continue," Mdoe said.

UNICEF South Sudan requires US$45 million (R603,5 million) to support the release, demobilisation and reintegration of the thousands of South Sudanese child soldiers over the next three years.

"Negotiations with the parties to the conflict require considerable energy and commitment from all involved," Mdoe said.

At the ceremony celebrating the release of the child soldiers in the southern city of Yambio, the children were formally disarmed and provided with civilian clothes.

Medical screenings, counselling and psychosocial support were ongoing as part of the reintegration programme.

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