UNICEF has hailed as a key milestone the
signing of a new action plan by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)
to end the use of children as soldiers. It is estimated that 1,200 children
– both boys and girls – are still associated with the SPLA.
In the action plan signed November 20, the SPLA commits itself to prevent
and end the use of children under the age of 18 and to ensure their release
and reintegration within a year.
“We welcome the signing of this action plan, which marks a renewed
commitment by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army to reinforce international
standards ending the use of children as soldiers,” said Peter Crowley,
Director of UNICEF’s Southern Sudan Area Programme.
“The signing of the Action Plan is particularly significant given that it
took place on November 20, which was the 20th Anniversary of the Convention
on the Rights of the Child,” Mr Crowley added.
The agreement is a time-bound commitment by the SPLA to ensure that all
children within their ranks are released and reintegrated back into
society, he added.
The signing of the action plan was witnessed by Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy,
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed
Conflict, during a fact-finding mission to Sudan.
The Action Plan reiterates commitments made by the SPLA at the time of the
signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, at which time there
were about 12,000 child soldiers within the SPLA.
The plan lists a number of concrete measures reinforcing that commitment
including agreements to punish those within the SPLA who use and recruit
children, to set up Child Protection Units within the ranks of the SPLA and
to remove all children from the SPLA payroll to discourage children from
remaining in or joining the armed forces. The plan also permits UNICEF and
other relevant child protection agencies to monitor and evaluate
implementation of the plan.
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