Hundreds of child soldiers disarmed in South Sudan

Hundreds of child soldiers disarmed in South Sudan
The UN child agency has negotiated the release of 145 child soldiers fighting with rebel groups in South Sudan, UNICEF said on Wednesday.
2 min read
26 October, 2016
More than 16,000 child soldiers are fighting with armed groups in South Sudan [Getty]

Some 145 child soldiers have been released after negotiations with two rebel groups in South Sudan, the UN children's agency said on Wednesday.

Young fighters from the Cobra Faction and the main SPLA/IO rebel faction were freed in the Pibor region where a similar deal secured the release of 1,775 other children in 2015.

"Our hope is that today's release will be followed by many others," Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF head in South Sudan, said in a statement.

The liberation includes disarming the children, providing them with civilian clothes and registering them into a reintegration programme where they receive counselling and assistance to reconnect with families. 

"Children in South Sudan need safety, protection and opportunities," Mdoe said.   

"With the ongoing fighting across the country, UNICEF continues to receive reports about the recruitment of children. We urge all parties to abide by international law, to end recruitment and to release children who are currently serving in their ranks."

At least 16,000 children remain fighting on the frontlines or working as porters along with both armed militias as well as the national army, UNICEF said, noting that some 8,000 were recruited this year alone.

South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 after Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of plotting a coup.

Tens of thousands of people have died and more than 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in the nearly three-year war, which has been marked by appalling levels of rape and killings.

Last week, the UN called for an arms embargo to prevent further violence in the conflict-ridden country.