Hundreds Of Child Soldiers Released In South Sudan

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It was the first release of children by any armed groups in South Sudan in more than year.

"Children should not be carrying guns and killing each other".

More than 300 child soldiers have been released in South Sudan's war-torn region of Yambio under a program to help reintegrate them into society, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Case workers with World Vision's reunification and reintegration programme, supported by UNICEF, will help support the children to recover from the violence they have witnessed and re-join society. "Our priority.is to provide the support they need so they are able to see a more promising future".

Fifteen-year-old Victor is among the children to be released today.

During the ceremony, the children were symbolically disarmed and given civilian clothing.

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Shearer said the major challenge ahead is to ensure the children get support they need to undertake training, find jobs and access the opportunities they deserve.

The children were rescued from the Yambio region, the epicenter of fighting in the South Sudanese Civil War that has raged since late 2013, leading to tens of thousands of casualties and over 3.6 million people displaced.

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. "They should be playing, learning, having fun with friends, protected and cherished by the adults around them", said David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan, welcoming the release.

The UN mission said out of total 700 children screened and registered for release in phases, 563 belong to the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM) rebel group and 137 others were associated with the Sudan People's Liberation Army In-Opposition (SPLA-IO).

"Not all children are forcibly recruited". The two men were the leaders of the young country when it seceded from Sudan in 2011, but in 2013 Kiir accused Machar and other leaders of planning a coup and dismissed them. Gradual peace negotiations freed some 4,000 child soldiers by 2012.

Given the volatile security situation, the UN Mission deployed peacekeeping troops to escort religious leaders into remote bush areas to make contact and negotiate with the armed groups.

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