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South Sudan: the fear and horror of the children of war

The peace process was resumed in South Sudan. Perhaps now the nightmare of becoming refugees, homeless, child soldiers, sexual slaves and, in the worst cases, even sadistic killers will end for minors, after being used as ignorant political instruments.


A rebel’s child. Photo by Pierre Holtz Unicef . Flickr

Julio Morejón


In Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, the South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, and the leader of the armed opposition Reik Machar on 12 September signed the agreement which is expected to eliminate all shows of violence that placed the country in a serious humanitarian crisis.

A summary of the impact of what happened during that period takes note of the most susceptible segments, children and women, who are both not only victims of crimes resulting from military actions but also of the base instincts of participants in the conflict.

Perhaps the recount will reveal that government soldiers and rebel troops are guilty of crimes against humanity that can be punished by justice to prevent their reoccurrence and at the same time clear the atmosphere of belligerence that still persists, despite the principal figures having signed the pact.

Photo Wikimedia Commons

With a population of about 12.5 million inhabitants – 50% of whom are minors – the country is suffering a serious problem, the recruitment of those under legal age.

Many of these minors come from very poor families who consider military enlistment as an option to overcome destitution, but in fact leads to another more serious issue, because fighting strictly for money turns the individual (be they adult or child) into a mercenary, something also punished by justice worldwide.

According to the press, in South Sudan there are around 19,000 child soldiers in the government forces and in the various armed groups that are involved in the armed conflict unleashed in the country in December 2013, when President Kiir accused Machar of trying to overthrow him through a coup d’état.

“So far in 2018, we have seen the liberation of almost a thousand children by armed groups, but there are still another 19,000,” Tim Irwin, the UNICEF spokesperson for South Sudan, told the European press, adding: “We hope that the pace of the number of these releases will increase as a result of the peace agreement.”

Foto Wikipedia

There is hope, but the wounds of the war are still surfacing, making the reintegration of possible future demoralised combatant more complicated, what with their traumas and frustrations caused by aggressions such as the one reported by the United Nations and featured in the news on 23 February.

“A UN report identifies high-ranking army and government officials as responsible for war crimes. The dossier, that contains 58,000 documents and 230 statements, will serve as a basis for establishing a hybrid tribunal to judge the offences,” the notes said.

The children of South Sudan were forced to watch as their mothers were raped and killed. (…), expands the report prepared by Human Rights experts, which implicates 38 highly ranked army officials and three governors, all identified as responsible for war crimes as well as crimes against humanity.

Free use Photo: Africom

The children were forcibly recruited by two sides in conflict and the UN commission estimates that they represent a quarter of the victims of sexual abuse.

In addition, they constitute a lost generation with “only one out of 13 who will finish primary education”.

After the understanding between the belligerent leaders, in which the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) collaborated, the victims – the children who, as the French humanist Anatole France described, are not small adults – also require help to repair their lives and recover the smiles lost in the fight for power. (PL)

Translated by Hannah Phelvin-Hartley (

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