Some of the officials who graced the function pose for a picture. (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)

Red Hand Day marked with calls to end use of child soldier

South Sudan on Monday marked International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers with calls to end the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups in the country.

South Sudan on Monday marked International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers with calls to end the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups in the country.

The day is commemorated on 12 February each year, also called Red Hand Day. This year’s theme, “No to Recruitment of Children as Soldiers,” aims to bring awareness against the violation of children’s rights and bring an end to it.

The South Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (DDRC) organized the event in partnership with UNICEF and the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan’s Child Protection Unit.

Speaking at the function, Oluku Andrew Holt, the National Coordinator at the DDRC, said the country called for support to bring an end to the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups.

“The Red Hand Day for child soldiers is an annual commemoration drawing attention to children forced to serve as soldiers in wars and armed conflict,” he stated. “We in South Sudan are also joining the world to urge for support to bring an end to the recruitment and use of children by armed forces or armed groups.”

For his part, Maj. Gen. Chaplain Khamis, the Director of Child Protection in the SSPDF, reiterated the army’s commitment to eradicate recruitment of child soldiers and child abuse.

“It has come to our notice that using of children in armed conflict is a great violation and that is why we always say not to recruitment of children and that is why the SSPDF committed itself to sign a lot of action plans to eradicate recruitment and use of children in South Sudan,” he said. “Due to some challenges, we are still talking about the issues of children in South Sudan yet we would have already cleared out children since 2009 or 2012. We are still talking about violations against children due to the recurrent insecurity in the country.”

Meanwhile, according to Brendan Ross, UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection, the agency has reintegrated over 4,000 ex-child soldiers into the community.

“In the last seven years, we have supported the Government of South Sudan and DDR Commission in particular in reintegrating over 4,000 children which is a fantastic figure,” Ross said. “It is unfortunate that 4,000 children had to go through this traumatic event in their lives.”

Thousands of children, mostly boys, have been recruited and used as soldiers by the armed forces and groups since February 2021.

In January 2023, World Vision’s project in Western Equatoria identified 12 children, 5 girls and 7 boys, associated with armed forces and groups and they are among 765 children currently receiving psychosocial support.