Recent progress in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace negotiations between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM), in Naivasha Kenya, has provided important openings and momentum for addressing the question of children associated with fighting forces. While children will be a part of the formal demobilization programme envisioned in the expected peace agreement, UNICEF has now been working to have children released from armed groups as a priority child rights and protection issue. An important counterpoint to this effort is that, in Southern Sudan, the SPLA has released over 12,000 children from its ranks since 2001.
This report presents the results of a rapid situation analysis of children associated with armed forces and armed groups in Government-controlled areas of Southern Sudan. UNICEF has adopted a working figure of 10,000 children associated with such armed groups. Following the globally-recognized conception, children associated with fighting forces (CAFF) covered by this analysis include all boys and girls less than 18 years who are involved, in any capacity, in the Sudanese Armed Forces and affiliated para-military, militia or other armed groups.
The field work was undertaken over the period 22 March to 26 April 2004. In addition to work in Khartoum, the locations visited included Bentiu, Juba and Terekeka, Malakal and Wau. The field work was undertaken with the participation of representatives from the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), as part of the collaboration between UNICEF and HAC to advance and prepare work in Sudan on CAFF.
In addition to interviews in Khartoum and review of key documents, methodologies for the analysis included key informant and focus group interviews in each of the above locations. We interviewed Military Intelligence representatives with the Army in all locations and were able to meet with militia commanders in most locations. Interviews in each location also included Governors, or 'walis', State-level Ministries of Social Affairs, Education and Humanitarian Affairs, international NGOs and key members of civil society such as religious leaders and traditional elders. Focus group interviews were held with children, including CAFF, and women's or community groups in each location except Bentiu, where this was not feasible for security and protection reasons. While this report identifies and discusses different armed groups in Sudan, its purpose is exclusively to develop a better understanding of, and preparation for, the release and reintegration of CAFF.
Findings and Conclusions:
While opportunities for 'DDR' work with CAFF were identified, this situation analysis found that significant work remains to be done with political and military authorities to achieve the release of children. In particular, military and militia officials consistently denied the existence of CAFF. Due to political and military sensitivities at both the national and local level, a "pilot project" as originally envisaged is not feasible in the near term.
Despite these constraints, important opportunities on CAFF were identified: a) to 'demobilize' children with one particular militia, and, b) to begin reintegration programming at the local level. In Terekeka Territory, the Mundari Militia emerged as an unique exception to otherwise consistent denial that CAFF existed. The Mundari were open about the involvement of children in their ranks and expressed sincere interest in demobilizing children and in collaborating in reintegration efforts so that these children might access education. Outside of the opportunity with the Mundari Militia, a number of locations in the South feature informal releases of children and a context conducive to establishing reintegration programmes.
Related to the official denial of CAFF, this analysis found a high risk that the Armed Forces and some affiliated forces (or militia) will release children, 'underage members', in a manner aimed to avoid acknowledging their existence. This makes it all the more vital to initiate community-based, inclusive reintegration programming regardless of how children may be 'released' or how formal DDR may proceed. Preparatory work for reintegration programmes is urgently needed, including the development of family tracing capacities, appropriate education modalities and other skill training and social support capacities and partnerships. This will support CAFF already present or returning to their communities, will provide alternatives towards preventing ongoing recruitment, and will build the substantial reception capacity needed for the large numbers of demobilized and returning children expected in the coming months of the peace process.
This situation analysis concluded that the UNICEF Country Office in Khartoum should seek the funds necessary to expand work to gain the release and reintegration of CAFF. This will require dedicated international staff at the Khartoum level and recruiting both international and national staff at the field level for the coming period of two to three years.
It is important to highlight that this field-based situation analysis confirmed key reintegration principles adopted in the Concept Note:
Key interventions for UNICEF in taking this forward, as elaborated in the report, are:
1. Lead advocacy and policy development work at the Khartoum level and within the emerging peace process provisions.
This will include developing, with a variety of partners, and leading an advocacy action plan to achieve the necessary policy statements and instructions needed to achieve the demobilization of children. In addition, UNICEF leadership will continue to be important in the multi-party, inter-agency efforts to establish more formal DDR provisions as part of the peace process and North–South harmonization.
2. Initiate reintegration programming in selected field locations as well as lead efforts to ensure appropriate programme preparations are underway for:
a. coordination and partnerships,
b. family tracing and appropriate reception and care arrangements, and,
c. the development of appropriate life-skill and education modalities.
3. Initiating direct reintegration programming should prioritize Juba – Terekeka and Wau. However, other locales should continue to be engaged in orientation and capacity building workshops, and planning, including resources, should be prepared to seize opportunities that may arise.
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Emergency - Child Protection
Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC)