Sierra Leone: UN welcomes release by rebels of new group of child combatants

Sierra Leone: UN welcomes release by rebels of new group of child combatants

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) today welcomed the release by the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of 150 children associated with the fighting forces.

The children -110 boys and 40 girls - were handed over to UNAMSIL chief Oluyemi Adeniji at a ceremony in the eastern town of Kailahun today, the UN operation said in Freetown. Also present were the Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Daniel Opande, and other senior UNAMSIL officials.

At the event, Ambassador Adeniji congratulated the RUF leadership for having kept to their commitment to free child combatants. "Today is a big day in the lives of all the children [released in Kailahun] where they can begin to regain their childhoods," he said, stressing that the children now had "the opportunity, from today, to turn around" their lives.

The handover marked the second release of children by the RUF in two weeks, following the transfer to UNAMSIL of 591 children in Makeni on 25 May. The UN Mission airlifted the children from Kailahun to Daru, where child protection agencies will take care of them and help reunite them with their families.

In other news, an agreement was reached over the weekend between UNAMSIL, the RUF and the Government of Sierra Leone on the next phase in the process of disarming the country's armed groups.

Meeting in Magburaka on 2 June, the Joint Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) agreed to continue the ongoing process in the Kono and Bonthe districts simultaneously during the month of June, with the parties disclosing the numbers of their combatants in both areas by 4 June. Meanwhile, the process in the Port Loko district will also be concluded once disarmament in Lunsar is completed, the statement said.