South Sudan is no stranger to violence. The U.N reports today that soldiers have kidnapped at least 89 children from the northern town of Malakal, all of whom were boys, some as young as 13 years of age.
The abductors surrounded the South Sudan community and searched house to house, taking the children by force.
“The recruitment and use of children by armed forces destroys families and communities,” said Jonathan Veitch, the UNICEF representative in South Sudan.
“Children are exposed to incomprehensible levels of violence, they lose their families and their chance to go to school,” Veitch added.
Secretary of State John Kerry visited the South Sudan town of Juba on Friday to meet with President Salva Kiir regarding the violence and atrocities being committed on both sides, and candidly urged him to step up efforts to stem the violence that has cost the region thousands of live.
President Kiir has agreed to direct talks with Riek Machar, yet it remains to be seen if Machar will do the same.
The battle between pro-government forces and rebels is not only a political issue, it is a tribal one as well.
CNN reports that since South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan, it has suffered a series of setbacks in its bid for stability in the region, including violence between tribes. The Nuer community backs Machar while the Dinka tribe remains loyal to President Kiir, which has created a breeding ground for ethnic clashes.
Famine is also a grave concern amid the war-torn region. As reported by the Inquisitr, while aid has been delivered over the past several months, there is still much more that needs to be done.
While the South Sudan government denies “recruiting” children as soldiers, rebel forces have remained silent regarding the accusations issued by the Human Rights Watch group.
Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, issued a statement accusing both sides of using children in combat, despite renewed promises by both government and opposition forces to end the practice.
Yet there is some hope. On February 11, UNICEF reports that 300 South Sudan children were released from an armed group. Weeks earlier, 250 children were released from another armed group, some of whom had been fighting for four years and had never attended school.
UNICEF estimates the costs for the release and reintegration of each child is about $2,330 over the course of two years.
“For every child released, it’s the chance for a new life,” UNICEF South Sudan representative Johnathan Veitch said in a statement. “We are witnessing the negative consequences that being in an armed group has had on the boys; some are withdrawn while others exhibit violent and aggressive behavior. Instead of playing, they march up and down.”
[Image courtesy of the Telegraph UK]