Senior officers from opposition forces living in cantonment sites in the Eastern Equatorian region of South Sudan have received training to help them better understand the laws that protect children caught up in armed conflict.
“As soldiers we need to know that children are vulnerable in a conflict situation,” said Major General Ceasar Oromo, commander of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) in Torit West. “If we are fighting, we should know whom we are fighting for, these are children and women who are very innocent, they need us.”
The officers from the SSOA and Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-IO) are located in Nyara and Irube cantonment sites as they wait to begin training to become part of a unified national security force under the 2018 peace deal.
They received training from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s Child Protection Unit to better understand international humanitarian law and basic human rights principles, including the rights of women and children in armed conflict and post-conflict situations.
The SPLA-IO is listed by United Nations Security Council for violating the rights of children, including recruitment and use of children in military ranks as well as killing, maiming and abducting them.
“The three violations we have been listed for as opposition forces, I want to assure you that our chairman has given an order for us, the commanders, to abide by and not get involved in these abuses again,” Patrick Ohiti Osfaldo, commander of SPLA-IO in Irube cantonment site advised his colleagues.
Recently, parties to the conflict recommitted to implement the Action Plan to end child right violations in South Sudan. The action plan was designed to address specific situations and outlines concrete time-bound steps that will lead to compliance with international law and more protection for children in future.
“Our office is willing, and we are ready to work with you, through this process and to support the implementation of the Action Plan,” said Child Protection Officer, Iddah Wambugu working with United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
“Accountability is coming into play and those who might have been involved in violations are going to be investigated and therefore, administrative and other measures will be taken to enhance justice.”