By Deng Machol
Defense Minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk said the department of child protection in the army forces has been enthusiastically engaging as well as its field division commanders on how to demobilize children out of its ranks and files.
Defense Minister Juuk made remarks on Tuesday during the first opening day of the three-day workshops organized by the UN Mission in South Sudan and UNICEF on how to develop a comprehensive action plan to prevent gross violations of children in the armed conflict.
“Our being here today, signify our unity for purposes and declared indications to the whole world that we love and cares for our children like other nation. I know that there are many skeptical in the international community that have labelled us as a children’s abusers but as a matter of facts we love our children as much as they love theirs’ own children,” Juuk said.
According to the UN report, the gross violation has committed against children by the armed actors in South Sudan; where both state and non-state actors have been listed by the UN – Secretary General for consistently perpetrating 5 of 6 gross violations against children and this includes recruiting of the children; killing and maiming; rapes and other form of sexual violence; abductions and attacks on schools and hospitals.
South Sudan army has signed action plan in 2009 before her independence but after 2013 conflict, its again signed a re-commitment in 2014. Other armed groups have also signed the commitment draft, in all attempt to end child-soldier.
In 2018, South Sudan became the 168th country to agree to the UN treaty committing to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.
During the two decades of civil war between Southern and Northern Sudan until the CPA deal in 2005, South Sudan was having hundred-thousands of child soldiers, but Juuk argued that they were not fool to send under-age child to the front – lines. However, the children were assigned to cook, and fetched water in then guerilla barracks.
“We have fallen short because of history as guerilla army but we have visions for our children,” Juuk said. “There is no doubt that children suffered during the army struggled and continues to suffers during the current conflict,” Juuk admitted. “Theirs’ suffering is not an isolated – it is in the [same] context of the messy suffering of all the people of South Sudan.”
But with the current revitalized peace deal, Juuk hoped that the people of South Sudan and children particularly will have a better future, something he said they are determined to make it.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that more than 3,000 children released from armed groups in South Sudan since the country descended into another civil war, but thousands more continue to be used.
Juuk said that his ministry has issued firm orders to all the military field commanders to report any illegal recruitment of the children, including cooperate with the concerned UN agencies in making sure that children are prevented from joining the army.
The primary role of the army and other security organs is to protect the citizens of that country, including children.
Lt Gen: Gabriel Jok Riak, Chief of General Staff for South Sudan People Defense Forces (SSPDF) said that not only children rights that have been violated, [but] all rights are being under threats by human existing, saying that this action plan will design contribution towards how they can make development in this army that will help the army to be free of child soldier.
“For us to join the rest of region and the world, we must refrain and restrain from dwelling in such practices. I think all of us here would not wish to abuse or violate the right of his/her child at home. So why not in our various institutions that we are committed to, so all the security personnel must stick to the principle and abide by the notion,” army chief said.
He further urges the UN agencies to continue to provide sensitive to the country’s army so that they might refrain from gross violations.
In the same event, SPLA – IO representative, Col: Lam Gabriel Paul, who is also a deputy army spokesman said the SPLA -IO is committed and is working to be free child soldier in it all ranks and files.
“Today, we are here to put a stop to that suffering. Now that peace is here, we need to work together as a peace partners to give future to our children. We would like to assure the international community that in the same spirit, we signed the revitalized peace agreement in September 2018, we come here today to work together and to stop the violations against our children. We, therefore urge you to support us in helping these children to return to their normal life and have bright future,” Paul said.
Col. Paul stated that they are working to make South Sudan great again, where every child right is protected and every human being is free and happy.
Meanwhile, UNMISS forces commander, Lt Gen. Frank Mushyo Kamazi said this is foundation that will benefits and that will provide a roadmap for attainment of the objectives of preventing the violation against children in South Sudan.
“This will be s foundation and beginnings of the direction and brightening way and future for the children,” Kamuzi said. “We at the UN and the UNMISS particularly are committed to support you [SSPDF] in this process. This is your process and our roles is to support you in achieving the objectives.”
Mr. Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro, representative of other armed groups said they are gathered in an attempt to turn a tact history of South Sudan back and open a new page, where South Sudanese will be respected and will respects themselves.
“I am grateful that as stakeholder of this country, it is important to realizes and recognizes that our country have been insulted – we have insulted ourselves – we have committed crimes – we have committed mistakes using violence against children – using against humanitarian agencies,” Bakosoro said. “Today, let us all recognizes this and accepted the fact and turn that doubted-history back and to move South Sudan forward.”
“This will be started point to say enough is enough, to say we can change our country – we can make our country to be global world – let us move together with our brothers and sisters in different countries to make that we are respected as a family of the global world – respected the role of laws – respected the human rights – respected the rights of children….to demobilizes them in all our ranks so that nobody again will insults South Sudanese people,” he echoed.
The UNICEF said fifteen thousand children remain separated from their families or missing, five years after conflict first broke out in South Sudan.
UNICEF representative, has welcomed the commitment of all the parties into the conflict to release child soldier in the armed conflict across the country.
He said this action plan should be more comprehensive and strongest than those in the past and because of that it requires a firm commitment of all parties.
“This action plan is significant commitment that come with good and challenges of course, all of us are here determined to see that this work is to succeed for the children of South Sudan, for their families and for the country, is our responsibility,” UNICEF said.
“This is one of the many steps of professionalizing the army. We have no alternative but to have a professional army that protect human rights and properties of its citizen; an army that doesn’t kills and maims children; an army that doesn’t do sexual assaults or rapes children and women; an army that doesn’t abducts children; an army that doesn’t attacks or use schools and hospitals for their own purposes; an army that doesn’t denies humanitarian assistants to children and vulnerable people,” Minister Juuk said.
President Kiir and his rival Dr. Machar and other oppositions signed the revitalized peace deal in an effort, to put an end a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced millions of people from their homes, followed with sexual violence and recruitment of and use children in the armed conflict.
This aimed to strength the army officers and to realizing the rights of all children to survival, development, protection and participation in South Sudan.