South Sudan: More than 300 child soldiers released

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"This is a crucial step in achieving our ultimate goal of having all of the thousands of children still in the ranks of armed groups reunited with their families", said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF's Representative in South Sudan.

More than 300 former child soldiers in South Sudan have been returned to regular society after spending time in a United Nations rehabilitation program meant to help children who were conscripted into militant groups to reintegrate.

The UN children's agency UNICEF said on October 26, 2016 it had negotiated the release of 145 child soldiers from two rebel groups in South Sudan.

Cold sweat ran down Daniel's back when - at age 14 - he was first handed a heavy gun and ordered to kill.

"They will have endured suffering, including sexual abuse".

The aid agency said the initiative was under a programme to help reintegrate them into society.

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The war is being fought between the government of President Salva Kiir and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) led by former Vice President Riek Machar. While the country backs the Convention on the Rights of the Child, stating that warring parties should refrain from recruiting children, the reality on the ground can look different.

The Shearer-led United Nations mission has been leading the project to release the children for more than six months, including providing peacekeeping troops to escort religious leaders into remote bush areas to make contact and negotiate with the armed groups.

"Our priority for this group - and for children across South Sudan - is to provide the support they need so they are able to see a more promising future".

It also sent engineers to fix a road between Yambio and a vocational training centre nearby to make sure that the young people can travel safely for training programmes. An upsurge of fighting in the region in July 2016 stalled the progress that had been made in securing the release of children associated with the forces, but this release is a positive step forward.

However, in spite of this release, some 19,000 children continue to be used by armed forces and groups more than four years after conflict erupted in December 2013.

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