This is so heartbreaking…..please read this excerpt and DO click on the link to continue reading this article in The Guardian. These boys (now aged 11-17) have been recruited by armies in South Sudan since December 2013. The horrors they have witnessed is something one does not even allow your own child to read in a magazine or newspaper, much less watch it on the evening news.
Most of these boys knew how to use guns, because their chore was to protect the family’s cattle, but they soon learned that killing people is quite a different story. They have been taken from their families and ordered by their commanders to, remorselessly, kill on demand. Some of them saw the ”army” as a way of escaping poverty….there were NO schools, roads, food, jobs, nothing and they just jumped at this chance, thinking that life will be better.
Unicef is now taking these boys under their wing and they will be entering a ”re-integration” program. The UN’s South Sudan representative, Jonathan Veitch told the boys: ”Your future will be much better if you take your uniforms off and you become children again.” (The Guardian, Jan 30, 2015)
These 250 boys (eventually it will be 3.ooo) that will be freed from the Cobra Faction in South Sudan are just the tip of the iceberg. According to The Guardian, Unicef confirms that more than 12.000 children have been recruited into armed forces. You can understand then, what the release of these children can mean to the people of South Sudan. The Guardian calls it “a moment of hope amidst a civil war that has escalated in South Sudan since December 2013, while peace talks between the main parties continue to stutter and stall.” They further report that ”estimates suggest well over 10,000 people have been killed since fighting began, with an estimated 1.9 million displaced – more than half of them children.”
”At a ceremony on Tuesday, 280 child soldiers were released in Gumuruk, South Sudan, following a peace agreement between President Salva Kiir’s government and the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA) Cobra Faction militant group in Jonglei State.
The boys, aged between 11 and 17, sat huddled in rows, some wearing premier league football shirts, others still in their flag-emblazoned khakis. There to lay down their weapons and enter reintegration programmes run by Unicef and various local partner organisations, the ceremony was emotional.
Many more boys will follow them. In the coming weeks, up to 3,000 are set to be freed from the Cobra Faction in what Unicef has called one of the “largest ever demobilisations of children”.
I don’t know how long I’ve been with the faction – I don’t know how to count”