UNAMID Conducts “No Child Soldiers -Protect Darfur” Campaign in Sortony, North Darfur
On 27 August 2016, UNAMID’s Child Protection Unit (CPU) held its Darfur-wide campaign ‘No Child Soldiers-Protect Darfur’, at the Gathering Site for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who sought refuge around the Mission’s Team Site in Sortony, North Darfur, following clashes between Government of Sudan (GOS) Forces and armed movements in Jebel Marra.
More than 500 people including senior community leaders, women, youth and children attended the event aimed at raising awareness on the need to end recruitment and use of child soldiers by parties to the conflict (armed groups and armed forces) across the region and to prevent use of children as fighters by communities in inter-and-intra ethnic clashes.
Addressing those gathered at the Site, UNAMID Child Protection Officer, Ms. Alma Tafani, stated that child soldiering is not in the interest of the communities in Darfur and the country as a whole. “It is our responsibility to protect children in the context of the armed conflict through advocacy and dialogue discouraging armed forces and armed movements from associations with children, while at the same time raising the awareness of communities against use of children as fighters in the ethnic clashes. Education as alternative is a key solution to peace and development in this region,” Ms. Tafani added.
Insecurity remains as one of the main concerns for the IDPs living near the Sortony Team Site. “Unless security is provided, we will never return to our villages” emphasized Sheikh Haroun Hassan, one of the IDP representatives. Sheikh Haroun requested UNAMID and other international organizations to help improve the lives of the displaced community by providing critical social support such as education, health facilities and nutrition.
Deputy Coordinator of the IDPs at the Gathering Site, Mr. Mohammed Bashar Muhajir, strongly urged the local community to send its children to school. “You know that recruiting children under the age of 18 for military purposes, is a crime not only under international law but even in our local tradition. Therefore, I call upon all parties to the conflict in Darfur, to refrain from recruiting children for military purposes, “Mr. Muhajir emphasized. He further requested UNAMID to establish more observation towers at the Gathering Site as additional protection for the IDPs and called for the opening of the road between Kabkabiya and Sortony, North Darfur, to facilitate easy access of commercial goods to their area.
Representing the youth at the Gathering Site, Mr. Abdelmajeed Ali, commended UNAMID CPU initiative meant to protect the children in Darfur and explained that the youth have an important role to play in raising awareness among the local community about the ills of child recruitment for military purposes.
Ms. Suad Mohammed, representative of IDP women at the Gathering Site observed that children and women are particularly vulnerable and in most need for protection, when conducting their daily farming and fire wood collection chores.
Sortony area, where the gathering Site is located, has two primary schools for boys and girls, Mosques and five child friendly spaces in the area where children can drink clean water to avoid contracting infectious diseases.
During the event UNAMID CPU distributed exercise books and vests to the local community with the message: “No Child Soldiers – Protect Darfur”. Additionally, UNAMID Child Protection also conducted training during which Ms Umalhassan Yjoufoun and Ms Tafani sensitized UNAMID military and police personnel in the area about UN’s ‘Zero-Tolerance’ policy on sexual relations with minors as part of a campaign launched in June 2016 titled “Protect Children / Support efforts of UNAMID – No sexual relations with minors” referring to persons under the age of 18 years.
UNAMID has, on numerous occasions, engaged in dialogue with parties to the conflict, resulting in the establishment of six Action Plans and issuance of nine Command Orders to end recruitment and use of child soldiers, as well as other violations including abduction, killing and sexual abuse of children in Darfur.