By Simon Deng
Children travelling on the highways of South Sudan are increasingly becoming a target of armed groups who abduct people for ransom, an army official said.
The revelation comes in the wake of 18 abducted on the Juba-Yei highway, among them 9 children.
The ransoms are effects of the political instability which created a worsening socioeconomic problem which generally exacerbated the situation of children across the country, Maj. Gen Michael Majur Aleer, the Director General for General training in the South Sudan People’s Defense Force said during the closing of a workshop for the army and police on Friday, aimed at mitigating the use of children in the armed forces.
The workshop held in Juba was organized by Dallaire institute, a Canadian organization.
“There is a very great concern and a very great challenge because of the plight of our children with our forces, with armed groups and even our society,” Aleer said.
“Our situation was a little good but it is deteriorating, along Juba-Lainya Road there was a road ambush, 18 people were abducted among them were 9 children,” he said.
“We are going beyond the limit; some people are demanding ransom for the release of the children and women.”
He warned that children also continue to be victims of armed attacks in several parts of the country, describing them as “sorrowful events regarding the children.”
“What will be the plight of those children?” Aleer wondered.
“They will get themselves associated with nearby military barracks and that is due to political instability in our country.”
The executive director for Dallaire institute, Shelly Whiteman urged the need to improve the protection of children from armed forces in the country.
“We need to focus on prevention of recruitment of children as soldiers, it is a prerequisite for promoting peace in the context of South Sudan,” Whiteman said.
According to 1st Lt. Amida Khakis Harum of South Sudan national police service, there is need to create awareness among armed forces.
“There is need to create awareness among the security forces so that they will know the benefit of preventing children from joining armed group and as well the effect of recruiting children in the rank and file of the armed group,” Harun said.
“The government will benefit from this initiative because children are the future of the country.”