This week, the army of South Sudan signed a deal with the United Nations to release all remaining child soldiers. That means the world’s newest nation could be removed from a list of countries that use children in the military.
Radhika Coomaraswamy is a U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict. She announced Friday in Juba that the deal could lead to two thousand more children being released soon.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army has released three thousand children since the peace agreement was signed in two thousand five. That agreement ended the civil war with Sudan. The SPLA is a former guerrilla movement. It fought Sudan for many years and secured South Sudan’s independence in July. The South Sudanese people voted in January of last year to separate from the government in Khartoum.
Ms. Coomaraswamy says it is important for the army to act quickly on the new deal, signed Monday. The number of child soldiers in the military has grown because many came from rebel groups that accepted a government offer of a general pardon.
RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY: “The SPLA has been on this list since two thousand six. And it’s very important that we delist them as soon as possible, and now that they are a national army, it becomes extremely important.”
The U.N. diplomat visited South Sudan this week to inspect the conditions for children and to discuss South Sudan’s progress in freeing child soldiers. But she was not able to visit the troubled state of Jonglei state. There, more than one hundred forty thousand people have been affected by ethnic violence this year.