08, Feb 2018 | CJP Team
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said that armed groups have officially freed more than 300 child soldiers in South Sudan; they will now start “reintegrating into their communities and learning new skills to support themselves,” according to the UNMISS statement. UNMISS said that overall, 700 children had been “screened and registered for release,” 563 from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM) and 137 with ties to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army In-Opposition (SPLA-IO). 311 children were released in the first phase on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. 87 of the 311 released are girls. David Shearer, who heads UNMISS said, “This is the first time so many young women have been involved in a release like this in South Sudan,” adding, “They will have endured suffering, including sexual abuse. It is vital that they receive the support they need to rejoin their communities and that they are welcomed home by family and friends without any sense of stigma.” Shearer said that now financial, practical, and emotional support must be ensured for the children as they take on training, seek jobs and other opportunities. UNMISS said it has spearheaded the initiative for the children’s release for over six months, including supplying peacekeeping troops for religious leaders as they ventured into remote areas to communicate and negotiate with armed groups. According to Al Jazeera, South Sudan was founded in July 2011, but has been wracked with conflict after President Salva Kiir Mayardit accused a former deputy of planning a coup, sparking a civil war. According to the UN children’s agency (UNICEF), both sides have child soldiers. Efforts towards peace have failed, with the war resulting in thousands of deaths, and a fourth of country’s people being displaced. The UN has said that half of South Sudan’s population is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with 1.2 million under threat of famine.