Sudanese Rebels Renew promise to Demobilize Child Soldiers
Sudan's main rebel movement on Sunday assured visiting UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy that it was committed to the demobilization of child soldiers from its armed forces.
"We recognize that the military is no place for children and it is the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) policy that children under the age of 18 should not be in the army," SPLA deputy commander Salva Kiir said.
Kiir handed Bellamy a document stating SPLA's commitment to the demobilization process.
Some 116 boys under the age of 18 were removed from the SPLA on Saturday to join a group of about 300 others at Deng Nhial Primary School, which has been set up for children coming out of the army in this southern Sudan town, with the help of UNICEF.
"We congratulate the SPLA for its commitment to the demobilization process, and UNICEF will continue assisting in education, demobilization and the reunification of the children with their parents," Bellamy said.
Kiir said it was not SPLA policy to recruit children, but that many were orphans who had joined the movement for security.
Bellamy also inaugurated a polio immunization campaign for southern Sudan, administering the vaccine to three babies.
The rebels declared a 10-day ceasefire last Tuesday to enable the immunization program to proceed smoothly, at the request of UNICEF.
Civil war has opposed southern Christian and animist rebels and the central Islamic and Arab authorities in Khartoum since 1983 -- RUMBEK, Sudan (AFP)
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