South Sudan vowed on Tuesday to end recruitment of and use of children in armed conflict as the country makes effort to end more than five years of conflict.
Kuol Manyang Juuk, minister of defense and veterans affairs, said the department of child protection in the army has been actively engaging its field division commanders on how to demobilize children out of its ranks and file.
He added that the government has issued firm orders to all the military generals to cooperate with the concerned UN agencies in making sure that children are prevented from joining the army, saying the South Sudan People's Defense Forces (SSPDF) has trained more than 100 child protection officers in an effort to professionalize the army.
"This is one of the many steps of professionalizing the army. We have no alternative but to have the professional army, an army that protects human rights and properties of people, citizens," Juuk said in Juba.
The minister spoke during the first opening day of the two-day workshop organized by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on how to develop a comprehensive action plan to prevent violation of children in the armed conflict.
In 2018, South Sudan became the 168th country to agree to the UN treaty committing to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.
Recently, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced the release of more than 3,100 child soldiers by armed groups in South Sudan since the east African country descended into conflict five years ago.
Gabriel Jok Riak, chief of general staff of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), said the discussion on the action plan will help the army to be free and fair of child soldiers.
"For us to join the region and the world we must refrain and restrain from dwelling in such practices. I think all of us here would not wish to abuse or violate the right of his/her child at home. So why not in our various institutions that we are committed to, so all the security personnel must stick to the principle and abide by the notion," Riak said.
He said though there are challenges the security forces will exert all the necessary effort to reduce the use and recruitment of child soldiers, noting that the army is obliged to observe the process and carry on with the demand without the prejudice.