The United Nations-African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has launched a campaign throughout the western region of Sudan against the recruitment of children as soldiers with an event that was attended by more than 1,000 people.
Held in conjunction with the Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the event saw performances of songs as a show of solidarity with issues related to the protection of children, and clothing was distributed bearing messages promoting peace and protection of children, and against the use of child soldiers.
“The protection of children will not be complete without peace in Darfur,” said Boubacar Dieng, Head of UNAMID’s Children Protection Unit, in his speech at the event. “We believe that with your continued support, child protection is in progress.”
His view was echoed by the Head of UNAMID Sector North, Mohamed El-Amine Souef, who underlined the Mission’s focus on protection of civilians, delivering humanitarian assistance and contributing to peace and reconciliation.
Sheikh Musa Hilal, a tribal leader, called on the humanitarian community, UNAMID and the UN agencies to engage in further activities in the field of development in the region. He reiterated a Command Order he issued on 26 July 2013 prohibiting communities under his leadership from using children in tribal clashes and underlined his commitment to a community-based Strategic Plan against child soldiering initiated by him on 6 October 2014.
The strategic plan establishes an implementation follow-up committee not only to raise awareness about the negative impact of using children as soldiers but also to identify children who have served as fighters in past ethnic conflicts and to work with relevant organisations to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society including through access to education and vocational training skills.
The plan is supported by UNAMID, which expects that its successful implementation to foster relations between communities, contribute to ending tribal clashes and enhance protection of children.
“We are glad to witness that communities are taking the lead role in protecting children who are the future of Sudan. UNAMID will continue to support on-going efforts to rid Darfur of child soldiering and other grave violations against children,” said UNAMID Acting Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator a.i., Abiodun Bashua.
Since 2009, six parties to the conflict in Darfur have established action plans to end recruitment and use of child soldiers, and nine have issued command orders prohibiting the practice. Meanwhile, more than 1,200 former child soldiers have been registered to benefit from reintegration programs with the support of Sudan’s Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission, UNICEF and UNAMID.