No child soldiers recruited by SSPDF in NBGS, says Khamis

No child soldiers recruited by SSPDF in NBGS, says Khamis
Maj. Gen. Chaplain Khamis, Head of SSPDF Child Protection Unit [Photo: Courtesy]

The Head of SSPDF Child Protection Unit, Maj. Gen. Chaplain Khamis, refuted the allegations that the SSPDF in Mathiang, Northern Bah el Ghazal State, were recruiting children into the army.  

This came after the government investigated the reports by the South Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Commission (DDR) that United Nations still includes SSPDF on its blacklist over continued child recruitment into the army.

 Speaking to The City Review on Thursday, Khamis said they visited Mathiang with UNMISS staff and found no child soldiers during the parade.

“We went there and we spent seven days in Northern Bahr el Ghazal… did verification together with our partner UNMISS, one officer went with us from Juba and another UNMISS officer from Aweil. We went there and they were the ones doing the verification,” he said.

“The other day we went to Mathiang where the allegations were coming from… all the forces were called to come for parade… and no child was found,” he stated.

He noted that they also went to a training centre called Pantiit but did not find child soldiers. Instead, they created awareness on the six grave violations on the children’s rights.

Khamis revealed that the allegations came after soldiers who ran away from the military training centres due to less salary returned to the centre when they heard there was an increment of salaries in the army salary. He narrated that upon their return, they were followed by a group of children and women which made UNMISS think that they were captured by the SSPDF.

He reiterated government’s commitment to culminating issues of children recruitment into army in the country, adding that the army is also devoted to obeying the international laws on the rights of children.

“There are a lot of action plans that the government has signed. And that action plan show the government’s commitment in tackling the issues of child protection or recruitment of children. The army is actually committed and they are guided by the international law, national principles, we have the child act, we have SPLA act, and the African Charter,” he stressed.

He disclosed that in August, 2023, an SPLA-IO officer in Western Equatoria State had recruited eight children into army, noting that the government ordered for their release after finding out.