Protection Cluster (2014). Briefing Note Forced and Child Recruitment in South Sudan
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Forced and child recruitment is not a new phenomenon in South Sudan, pre-dating its independence from Sudan. Since late 2014, however, protection actors have registered an increase in recruitment activities by both government and opposition forces, notably in the Greater Upper Nile region. These recruitment activities include compulsory, forced and voluntary recruitment of men into armed forces and armed groups, as well as recruitment of both girls and boys by armed forces and armed groups associated with both sides of the conflict. Similar massive recruitment drives have been observed in the past, notably when it was necessary to increase the strength of the frontlines and/or to have more influence at the negotiating table, be it to discuss peace agreements or the future integration of armed groups into a national army.
The recruitment and use of children in armed forces and groups continues to be a major challenge in South Sudan, despite commitments by the Government and the opposition to protect children from the impact of the conflict. It is estimated that over 12,000 children may have been recruited and used by armed forces and groups across the country since 2014. This recruitment has taken various forms, including coercion, abduction, revenge and children joining of their own volition to gain access to food and other basic needs. The longer the conflict persists, the more children are exposed to recruitment and abused by armed groups, as families are repeatedly displaced and children are more likely to be separated. Attacks on schools and hospitals and their military use and/or occupation by all parties deprive children of access to education and health care, further increasing their vulnerability to recruitment. Reports have also been received of mobilization of children by armed elements in areas hosting refugees in South Sudan. Be it “voluntary” or not, the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is a violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, as noted...