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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid