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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs