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Children and advocates appeal to end abductions and recruitment of South Sudan’s children by armed groups

Yambio County, South Sudan - His Lordship Boroni Edwardo Hiiboro, the Bishop of Tambura and Yambio Diocese in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State has encouraged humanitarian workers and advocates to strengthen the awareness against all kinds of violence the children’s parents during World Vision’s Red Hand Day event.

Bishop Edwardo Hiiboro added that at least 75 percent of abuse happens within families and he strongly reminded parents that they represent God in their children’s lives and thus, must strive to provide them a live in all its fullness.

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Over a hundred children and county advocates from different agencies and groups joined World Vision's Red Hand Day event help in Yambio's Freedom Park to boost the campaign against abductions and recruitment of children to armed groups in the country.

 

The State Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Hon. Anisude Cecilia condemned the recruitment of children by armed forces and groups, and made a commitment to work with partners to end the practice in the state.

The recruitment and use of children are prohibited by the South Sudan domestic legislation (Labour Act (2017), Transitional Constitution with its Amendments (2011/ 2018), Penal Code Act (2008), and Child Act (2018)) and international treaties that the country has signed, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols (UNICEF, November 2021).

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His Lordship Boroni Edwardo Hiiboro, the Bishop of Tambura and Yambio Diocese in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State was among the prominent faith leaders who joined the event and actively advocated for child protection and upholding of their rights.

 

A recent report of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to the Human Rights Council stated that “children living in conflict settings continued to see their vulnerability to grave violations exacerbated by political instability, security challenges, the climate emergency, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and related responses”.

The children, mostly from a Yambio college, appealed to government officials and advocates to uphold and protect their rights, and enable children in South Sudan to live their lives without fear of being recruited and abducted by the armed groups.

Children living in conflict settings continued to see their vulnerability to grave violations exacerbated by political instability, security challenges, the climate emergency, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and related responses.

Former child soldiers being supported by World Vision’s FOCUS Project funded by Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) also joined the event supporting their cause and to continue to appeal until the practice ends.

“The event provided children with the opportunity to speak out against recruitment into armed groups and call for support to those who have been released and those still in captivity”, says Denis Bambura Arkanjelo, FOCUS Project Manager.

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Students and advocates listened to speakers and testimonies of former child soldiers.

 

The parents were also challenged on their role protecting their children. “It was an opportunity for parents not only to speak about the abductions but get reminded of their obligations to take care and protect their children, as well as accept those who have come back home”, Arkanjelo adds.

Abraham Ajith Aguang, the child protection focal person in the South Sudan Police Defense Force in Yambio, says, “I work closely with World Vision and partners to see to it that children are protected especially the newly-released child soldiers.”

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World Vision's Zonal Manager in Western Equatoria State Simanga Ndelebe affix his red hands to signify his commitment to support children. With him are officials of the South Sudan Police Defense Force who also did the same.

 

The highlight of the event was the red hand ceremony participated by children, parents, government officials, faith leaders, civil society representatives and all stakeholders as a show of commitment and support to end the plight of child soldiers in South Sudan.

The event was graced by the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, the Executive Chief of Yambio County, Commissioner of Police, Commanders of South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SPPDF) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO), Bishops of Catholic Diocese of Tambura Yambio and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Sudan and Sudan, women groups, among others.

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Main photo: The group of former child soldiers shared their harrowing experience and joined the appeal to end violence and recruitment.

Story by Cecil Laguardia, Senior Manager for Advocacy and Communications I Photos by Scovia Faida Charles Duku, Communications Coordinator