One of four armed groups in Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), has agreed to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in conflict. The group signed an action plan for carrying out the agreement.
To date, 59 armed groups and government forces are listed in the U. N. secretary-general’s report on children and armed conflict as having committed grave violations against children.
The violations include killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, sexual violence, recruitment, and abduction of children.
By signing the action plan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North hopes to get itself off the list.
The U.N. special representative for the secretary-general on children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, says the list is a kind of prod to armed groups.
“When a party to conflict is ready to cooperate, is ready to stop the violation, I would like to encourage them to stop the violation, move forward rather than blaming them… If people do not act, then we name and shame," said Zerrougui.
Implementation of the action plan will begin as soon as the U.N. Children’s Fund, which is the lead agency in this process, and its partners gain access to the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State, where the SPLM-N is located.
U.N. aid agencies have not had access to those areas for about five years, a situation the SPLM-N blames on the Sudanese government.
Once the U.N. is able to reach the areas, Zerrougui says aid workers will screen the troops to see how many children are in the ranks of the armed group.
SPLM-N Chairman Malik Agar tells VOA that a United Nations report in 2012 had listed 11 children as having been recruited, but a more recent report, he says, puts that number at four.
“The problem is not the number, whether it is one or 10, that is not a problem," said Agar. "The problem is the principle, that the child, whether two or three, whatever number, that deserve not to be subjected to others and his life not subjected to difficulties in combat areas. And, I think that is a matter of principle, not a matter of number.”
UNICEF will oversee the demobilization and reintegration of the child soldiers into their local communities. The agency will trace the children’s families, and provide them with education and psychological care to help them cope with their trauma.