The United Nations Special Representative for South Sudan, Ellen Margrethe Løj, travelled to Pibor town in the eastern part of the country, where she met some of the recently released child soldiers and urged the release of the remaining children still being held by a militia group in the region.
The UN estimates that 13,000 children are associated with armed forces and groups nationwide in South Sudan, with credible evidence indicating that both of the warring parties have engaged in the recruitment of child soldiers since the current conflict began in December 2013.
In Pibor town today, Ms. Løj met with David Yau Yau, the chief administrator of the Greater Pibor Administrative Area and former commander of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army-Cobra Faction.
According to a press release from UNMISS, Ms. Løj welcomed the release of nearly 1,500 child soldiers who once fought with Mr. Yau Yau’s militia and urged him to continue supporting efforts to secure the release of an estimated 500 child soldiers who are still associated with the Cobra Faction.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative met with a group of some of the 500 former child soldiers who have been reunited with their families in Pibor Town.
“I am very encouraged by the success achieved by UNICEF and partners thus far in helping to obtain the release of these children, about a third of whom are 13 years old or younger,” she said. “But our work has only just begun.”
“In conjunction with local authorities, we must ensure that these children have access to educational and health facilities and are protected from any future attempt to enlist them again in any military organization,” Ms. Løj said.