South Sudanese Rebels Release Child Soldiers

Civilians fleeing Kajo Keji county, toward the southern border with Uganda

Khartoum — REBEL groups have released some 68 children they used as fighters during the ongoing civil war in South Sudan.

The youngsters have been released to their families following an assessment and verification conducted by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), UN Mission in South Sudan and the national Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission.

This is the fourth batch of children released from the former South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM), who signed a peace agreement and agreed to integrate into government forces.

It is anticipated more children will be released in the coming days.

Anna Michael, UNICEF's Child Protection Officer, said the organisation provided psycho-social support for the children.

"We have established child-friendly spaces in the different communities where children come from. Social workers engage them in activities that help them to regain their childhood and be normal children in their communities," she said.

UNICEF has different reintegration services for the minors, implemented with other humanitarian partners.

At least 19 000 children are believed to be participating in the conflict in South Sudan, the world's newest country after attaining independence in 2011.

Multiple escalations in the conflict since the outbreak of war in 2013 have forced more than 4 million people to flee their homes.

Over half of the displaced have fled to neighbouring countries.

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