UNAMID conducts engagement and dialogue with armed groups to end recruitment of children
UNAMID’s Child Protection Unit within the Human Rights Section, recently conducted a sensitization campaign on child rights and child protection for community members and commanders of Sudan Justice Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement -Transitional Council (SLA-TC) in Nertiti, Central Darfur. The sensitization sessions, conducted as part on the ongoing “No Child Soldiers – Protect Darfur” campaign, is focused on ending recruitment and use of child soldiers by the armed movements in their areas of operation. During this campaign, 242 participants, including 109 females, were sensitized on the definition of a child soldier, and acquainted with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the release and reintegration of child soldiers.
Addressing campaign participants, Ms. Pamela Wadegu, UNAMID Child Protection Officer, stated that “it is critical for UNAMID to sensitize communities and irregular forces on measures they should take to prevent recruitment and use of children in their forces. We strongly urge these Armed Movements to immediately stop and prevent such practice with children.”
ollowing reports that some Armed Movements, that are still operating in Darfur, had begun mobilizing and recruiting new members in Nertiti, central Darfur and Kabkabiya, north Darfur to augment their membership on the ground, a UNAMID Assessment Team travelled to Nertiti to verify these reports. The Assessment Team interacted with the local community including Commanders of the Sudan Justice Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement -Transitional Council (SLA-TC) and extended the message to communities in Thur and Garsila IDPs camp that the only way children would win and benefit from the Juba Peace Agreement, is through books and pens and not weapons.
Local communities in Nertiti, identified poverty and lack of vocational training centers as the main drivers of child recruitment. Armed Movement Commanders on the other hand, acknowledged that they do have child soldiers within their Movements but that as part of fulfilling their obligations under the Juba Peace Agreement, they had committed to release all children within their ranks.
“Whilst we undertake to immediately release the children in our midst, we seek assurance that the child DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) processes are functional and will provide the necessary packages for the reintegration of former child soldiers to their communities,” the Commander of SLA-TC, Jalal Musa Bahar Eldeen.
The highlight of the dialogue with the commanders of the SLM-TC was the signing of a Command Order by the General Commander of SLM-TC prohibiting his members from recruiting children and committing grave violations against children, while the commanders of JEM agreed to renew their commitment to implement a Command Order which they had signed in January 2017 and an Action plan in September 2012.
The General Commander of SLA-TC, Jalal Musa Bahar Eldeen, and Deputy commander SLM-TC, Norian Adam expressed their appreciation for the visit and cooperation with UNAMID in assisting and protecting civilians. “As members of the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA), we are committed to the protection of children, which is one of the JPA recommendations - to prevent child recruitment, prohibit use of child soldiers and protect the children and women in general. We request UNAMID to ensure programs are put in place to support these children in our ranks, once they are released’”, said General Commander Bahar Eldeen.
The Sudan JEM Commanders, commenting through their Spokesperson, Mohammed Ibrahim Tajadin, commended UNAMID “ for the support it has provided in the various Darfur peace agreements, including the Juba Peace Agreement and mediation interventions with the Government of Sudan” stating that this unwavering support from UNAMID enabled the Armed Movements to join the peace process and are now in the process of identifying child soldiers for registration for the DDR programs.
It is worth noting that on 3 October 2020, most Darfur armed groups, except the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid Nur, under the umbrella of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and signed the Sudan Peace Agreement in Juba, South Sudan.