South Sudan’s armed opposition faction has discharged at least 145 child soldiers from its ranks, Unicef has said.
The child soldiers, Unicef explained in a statement, were released by the Dr Riek Machar-commanded faction in Greater Pibor in Jonglei State on Wednesday.
Unicef country representative Mahimbo Mdoe praised the move and urged both the government and the opposition fighters to release many other children who were still serving in their armed forces.
“Our hope is that today’s release will be followed by many others so that the 16,000 children who are still in armed forces and armed groups will be able to return to their families,” Mr Mdoe said.
The humanitarian official highlighted that children in the young nation were robbed of their future after the onset of the crisis.
Unicef, Mr Mdoe said, was appalled by the continued recruitment of child soldiers by the government and the rebels, particularly in the Upper Nile.
“With the ongoing fighting across the country, Unicef continues to receive reports about the recruitment of children in South Sudan’s Unity, Jonglei and other states,” Mr Mdoe noted.
He called on both parties to the conflict to respect the international law and immediately denounce child soldiers’ recruitment.
“We urge all parties to abide by international law, to end recruitment and to release children who are currently serving in their ranks,” he said.
At least 16,800 children have been forcefully recruited since the beginning of the conflict in 2013, according to Unicef.
The 1949 Geneva Convention prohibits military recruitment and use of children under 15 years old.