145 child soldiers in South Sudan released
About 16,000 children are still in ‘armed groups’, Unicef says
BBC/ Some 145 child soldiers fighting for two rebel groups in South Sudan have been released, Unicef has announced.
The children were recruited by the Cobra Faction and the SPLA In Opposition, two armed groups which have been fighting the government.
They were freed in the eastern region of Pibor and “disarmed and provided with civilian clothes,” Unicef said in a statement.
About 16,000 children are still in “armed groups”, it says.
Unicef said it was the largest release of child fighters since last year but warned that children were still being recruited by various armed groups.
Mahimbo Mdoe, Unicef’s representative in South Sudan, urged all parties to “end the recruitment and to release children who are currently serving in their ranks”.
South Sudan plunged into internal strife in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his rival, former Vice-President Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.
The two camps have broken a series of peace deals, the latest one in July, meant to resolve the crisis in the country. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands forced from their homes in the latest fighting.
Former Botswana President Festus Mogae, who chairs a commission that monitors the 2015 peace agreement, says the ongoing hostility might trigger an “uncontrolled escalation of violence”.
Fighting has been reported around Yei in the south-east, Leer in the north, and Nasir in the north-east. Due to the deteriorating security situation, transporting goods by road is severely hampered.
Sudan People’s Liberation Army forces patrol the Lalo camp following heavy fighting that killed dozens of people, close to Malakal, South Sudan, on October 16