FILE - South Sudan government soldiers in the town of Koch, Unity state, South Sudan.
FILE - South Sudan government soldiers in the town of Koch, Unity state, South Sudan.

The government of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says it has never used children in armed conflicts.  But, Information Minister Ahmed Bilal says some of the rebels fighting against the government have been using child solders.

This came after Sudan and the United Nations Sunday signed the Action Plan to protect children from violations in armed conflict. Bilal said the only mistake Sudan made was not signing the action plan earlier.

He said his government has evidence that some of the rebels have used child soldiers. "Maybe eight or seven years ago, we arrested about 83 of the children. We didn’t bring them to court because they were under age, and they are still using the children," Bilal said. 

In the past, the United Nations has accused both rebels and the government of recruiting child soldiers.

Several years ago, one rebel group - Justice and Equality Movement - signed an agreement allowing U.N. visits to JEM bases to verify the group did not have child soldiers.

A release put out Sunday from the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict said Sudan’s signing of the Action Plan means that all seven countries whose national security forces are listed by the secretary-general for recruitment and use of children have committed to the objective “Children, not Soldiers” - a global campaign to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by governments in conflicts.

Meanwhile, Monday is the deadline given by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for opposition groups in Sudan, including the Justice and Equality Movement and the National Umma party to sign a roadmap calling for an end to the wars in Blue Nile, Darfur, and South Kordofan. 

The opposition groups have not signed because they said the roadmap legitimizes the ongoing dialogue, which they say is entirely controlled by the government. 

Information Minister Bilal said although Khartoum had reservations, still it signed the framework because it is committed to peace.