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SPLA begins demobilization of children in southern Sudan

TAM, SOUTHERN SUDAN, 21 January 2004 – Officials from the rebel SPLA movement of southern Sudan have begun a large demobilization of children in the volatile Western Upper Nile region. The first batch of 94 child soldiers, who are among an estimated 800 in the area, were ordered by commanders to put down their guns, give back their uniforms, return to their families and go to school during a ceremony in the village of Tam.

The children ran from the parade area whooping demands of "School! School! School!"

John Majak [not his real name], aged only 10, said that he "wanted to learn," and looked forward to seeing his mother after many months apart.

The remaining child soldiers from this area are expected to be released this week in a series of similar ceremonies.

UNICEF has supported the demobilisation of child soldiers throughout southern Sudan since 2000. The UN children’s agency has also supported the establishment by the rebel SPLM/SPLA movements of a special task force to de-mobilize children in rebel ranks. 

The SPLM/SPLA Child Soldier Task Force has demobilised 12,000 children since it began in late 2001. UNICEF support to the Task Force has totalled about $500,000.

About 2500 will children remain in the SPLA after these Western Upper Nile demobilisations are complete, many in areas which remain insecure for the time being. However, the Task Force aims to demobilise all children in the SPLA forces before the signature of a peace agreement with the Government of Sudan.

For 2004, UNICEF seeks funding of $92 million for programmes in both Northern and Southern Sudan. An important part of this programme will address the demobilisation and reintegration of children from government forces and allied militia.

For further information, please contact:
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York, 1 (212) 326-7426




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