News / Africa

South Sudan Recruited Child Soldiers in Latest Fighting

Bentiu, South Sudan. (Benno Muchler/VOA)Bentiu, South Sudan. (Benno Muchler/VOA)
x
Bentiu, South Sudan. (Benno Muchler/VOA)
Bentiu, South Sudan. (Benno Muchler/VOA)

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis

The international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says South Sudan’s army used child soldiers during recent fighting against opposition forces in violation of international law. 

HRW reports the government used child soldiers in renewed fighting in mid-August in Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, as well as in the neighboring town of Rubkona.

Eyewitnesses who fled the fighting told HRW they saw dozens of children in military uniform and armed with assault rifles who were deployed alongside government soldiers.

Skye Wheeler, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Juba, reports that boys as young as 12 years of age spoke with her about their experiences working for the Sudan’ People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

During an attack last Friday by opposition forces on Bentiu, capital of oil-producing Unity state now under government control, Wheeler said large numbers of civilian women seeking refuge at the UN base “told us that they saw child soldiers being used by the government defending the town.”

The armed children were also observed by Wheeler, her colleagues, and other humanitarian workers and UN personnel.

“Everyone has seen them,” Wheeler says. “They are being used openly by the government in these towns for the last several weeks.  And kids that we spoke to also said that they and other children had been posted out to defend areas around the edges of the town for the last few weeks as well,” the researcher says.

Wheeler says the government is breaking international law and committing war crimes because the children are 15 years of age and under.

The Sudanese army is a national army that only recently rose from a rebel force. Wheeler says the nation took major steps at independence three years ago to end the practice of recruiting children to war. After independence they were, she said, “releasing them, demobilizing them out of their army, and getting them back home with their families.”

She expressed sadness that both sides in the South Sudan conflict have taken a step backward. Both forces - the government as well as the opposition - have been recruiting children, Wheeler acknowledged.

In part, the problem reflects the nature of the national population: a major percentage of South Sudan’s population is children.

Wheeler says humanitarian agencies recognize the problem – particularly in Bentiu - and referred to a recent statement by Medecins Sans Frontieres that in Bentiu “kids are dying every day over the last few months.

“There are wars going on, there’s battling going on.  We’ve repeatedly seen in this conflict how civilians including children have been targeted and killed because of their ethnicity or their perceived allegiances,” says Wheeler.

“It’s a very young population,” Wheeler says. “And kids have suffered horribly in this conflict.  The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is devastating.  There are 1.5 million people displaced from their homes.

Recent heavy rains have flooded large areas of the IDP camps in Bentiu and Malakal, forcing people to wade in shin-deep filthy water just to get from place to place. “People are living in horrible conditions in IDP camps,” she says. Such conditions take a heavy toll on the children.

 

 

 

 

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs