Sudanese rebels release over 200 child soldiers
RAJI BASHIR IN KHARTOUM, SUDAN
REBEL groups have released 210 children, including girls, used as soldiers in the war-torn South Sudan.
The release of the minors by the National Salvation Front and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition brings the total number of children released by rebel groups in 2018 to 806.
The youngsters have formally been disarmed and provided with civilian clothes. They will undergo medical screenings and receive counselling and psychosocial support as part of a reintegration programme.
It was the third such ceremony to take place since the beginning of the year.Additional releases are expected in the coming months that could result in more than 1 000 children being freed.
However, an estimated 19 000 children continue serving in the ranks of the national armed forces and rebel groups in South Sudan.
Mahimbo Mdoe, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in the east African country, expressed hope the recruitment of children would eventually be eliminated.
“Every a time a child is released and able to return to their family, it is a source of great hope for their future and for the future of the country,” Mdoe said.
The UN envoy urged all parties to the conflict to end the recruitment of children and release all underage soldiers in their ranks.
South Sudan is experiencing a civil war triggered by a power struggle between its leaders in 2013, two years after independence from Sudan.
An estimated 300 000 civilians have been killed.
Almost 4 million people- a third of the total population-are displaced in the world’s newest country.