JUBA, South Sudan, June 25, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — In a ceremony at the headquarters of the sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Juba this morning, the Government of South sudan formally renewed its commitment to the Action Plan signed in 2012 with the United Nations to end the recruitment and use of children in Government armed forces and other grave violations against children.
“Children do not belong in our army and I personally commit, on behalf of my Government, to fully implement all provisions of the Action Plan,” declared Kuol Manyang Juuk, South Sudan’s Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs.
Today’s agreement recalls the measures agreed to in the 2012 Action Plan and includes: releasing all children associated with government security forces, providing services for their family reunification and reintegration; investigating grave violations against children and holding perpetrators accountable. The Government is also committing to ending all grave violations committed against children.
“I am very pleased that the Government of South Sudan has now recommitted to the Action Plan, which is an important first step towards restoring the rights of children in this country and averting the loss of another generation” said Toby Lanzer, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, who signed the agreement on behalf of the United Nations.
Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan, witnessed the agreement.
“The promise of the Action Plan is that children will be protected from recruitment and use and other grave violations at all times, including during periods of instability or conflict”, said Leila Zerrougui. “Accountability is key. If those who recruit, kill, maim and rape boys and girls, attack schools and hospitals never face justice, no lasting peace will be possible.”
The Action Plan, originally signed in 2009 and renewed in 2012, resulted in the release of more than one thousand children, command orders banning child recruitment and use, as well as the creation of a SPLA unit dedicated to the protection of children.
“So much of the progress made by the Government in the past years has been reversed in the current conflict,” said Jonathan Veitch. “This public recommitment is a major step in the right direction and UNICEF will be sure to hold the Government to the terms of this agreement.”
Using children in conflict has a devastating impact on their lives and their protection is essential to build the future of their country.