A faction of one of the armed groups in Darfur has agreed to prohibit the use of child soldiers in its ranks after discussions with the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Sudanese region (UNAMID), the mission reported today.
The Sudan Liberation Army’s Historical Leadership, a breakaway group of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdel Wahid (SLA/Abdel Wahid), submitted an action plan to the UN through Ibrahim Gambari, the AU-UN Joint Special Representative and head of UNAMID, on 25 September committing to end recruitment and use of child soldiers in compliance with Security Council resolutions on children and armed conflict.
The group’s leader, Usman Musa, had in August issued a command order to his faction’s members to stop “recruiting and using children in the ranks of the movement.” His order also prohibited attacks on schools and hospitals and “all behaviour that leads to abuse and violence against children, including sexual abuse and forced marriage.”
“The aim of UNAMID child protection is to assist the parties to the conflict and local communities to claim full ownership of the protection of children in anticipation of UNAMID’s eventual exit from Darfur,” said Boubacar Dieng, the head of the mission’s child protection unit. “Ultimately, only the people of Darfur can guarantee effective protection for the children of Darfur.”
The move by the SLA breakaway group was also welcomed today by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
Mr. Musa told UNAMID that while his group does not systematically recruit children, some had lost their families and sought shelter with his group. He informed the child protection unit that he had identified 120 children associated with his group.
He also confirmed that the list will be submitted to the North Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission for registration and reintegration of the children concerned. He also agreed to conduct similar assessments in the states of West Darfur and North Darfur to identify children among the group’s ranks.
The UN has received similar action plans from other armed movements in Darfur, including SLA/Free Will, SLA/Abu Gasim (Mother), and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM Peace Wing). Meanwhile, dialogue is continuing with the remaining armed groups and armed forces for commitment to and implementation of such action plans.
Fifteen armed groups or armed forces in Darfur are listed in the Secretary-General’s latest annual report on children and armed conflict as recruiters or users of children.
Between 2009 and February this year, the North Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, with the support of the UN, registered 1,041 former child soldiers in Darfur.