South Sudan marks Red Hand Day with calls for end to child soldiers
The National Coordinator for Child DDR in the National Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration Commission (NDDRC) called for an end to the recruitment of child soldiers.
Speaking to The City Review on Sunday, ahead of the celebration of Red Hand Day, meant to end the vice, Mr. Oluku Andrew Holt stated that Red Hand Day has a significant place in South Sudan for it provides the moment to draw attention to the need to end the recruitment of underage people into the military.
According to Mr. Oluku, poverty has been one of the driving factors forcing the children to join the army.
“We have a lot of children in the market of Juba due to the situation at home. They joint streets and markets,” he said, about the vulnerability of such young ones, making them soft targets of recruitment.
“Last year we released only six children who came with the SPLM-IO to the training centre in Maridi,” he alleged.
“We don’t have any allegation, but still, we are not ruling out [further cases] because the first batch of the unified forces graduated,” he added.
However, The City Review could not independently verify these claims.
Oluku explained that children are easier to manipulate, are more obedient, and often cheaper for armed forces and groups than adult soldiers.
“So we fear that perhaps some of them may come with children, and we don’t want children to enter the files,” he said.
He said that many girls are also used by armed groups due to their gender and their position in society. He said they are particularly vulnerable and are victims of rape and sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy, all of which culminate in their stigmatisation and rejection by families and communities.
He appealed to the community to create a good environment so that children can live with them.
“I say no to the recruitment of children as soldiers,” Andrew stated.
Red Hand Day is observed annually on February 12 every year as a call-to-action event to bring an end to child soldiers, also known as ‘International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers.
The theme of 2024 is, “I say no to the recruitment of children as soldiers.”
The celebration is made as a call for the government and political leaders to end the use of children as soldiers and bring them home. The Red Hand Campaign is an international-level movement in which children and adults paint their hands red and call upon political leaders to end the use of children as soldiers.