UN secures release of hundreds of child soldiers in South Sudan

The United Nations has secured the release of 3,000 child soldiers, of which 280 were freed on Tuesday, from the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA).

PTI| Last Updated: Jan 27, 2015, 22:10 PM IST

Geneva: The United Nations has secured the release of 3,000 child soldiers, of which 280 were freed on Tuesday, from the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA).

"UNICEF and partners have secured the release of approximately 3,000 children from an armed group in South Sudan -- one of the largest ever demobilisations of children, said UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac.

Of the more than 3,000 children recruited by SSDA's Cobra Faction insurgents led by David Yau Yau, 280 were released today at the village of Gumuruk in Jonglei State, eastern South Sudan.

The released children are below 17 years of age. One of the boys was recruited at the age of eight. All the children have been fighting for an average of four years.

The recruitments are being done both by the government and the rebel forces.

An estimated 12,000 children were recruited last year and are fighting at the frontlines of a conflict between government and opposition forces which began in December 2013.

The 13-month long civil war has cost the world's newest nation at least 10,000 lives and displaced more than 1.9 million South Sudanese and has magnified fears of genocide with international calls for the imposition of a UN arms embargo.

"These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience. The release of thousands of children requires a massive response to provide the support and protection these children need to begin rebuilding their lives," said UNICEF South Sudan representative Jonathan Veitch in a statement.

Though nothing is confirmed yet, the next phase of release is supposed to be in Pibor on January 30.

South Sudan has been locked in civil war since December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.