UNICEF estimates the total number of child soldiers at 16,000 since a military conflict erupted between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar in December 2013.
The two men formed a unity government in April, with Machar reinstated as vice president. But renewed fighting in the capital Juba in July and Kiir’s decision to sack Machar from the post of his deputy dealt a blow to hopes of peace.
The UN confirmed Thursday that Machar fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
“At this precarious stage in South Sudan’s short history, UNICEF fears that a further spike in child recruitment could be imminent,” Justin Forsyth, the organization’s deputy executive director, said.
UNICEF oversaw the demobilization of 1,775 child soldiers in 2015. “Renewed fighting and recruitment in South Sudan risks undermining much of this progress,” according to the statement.
The conflict between the army and troops loyal to Machar has also involved independent armed groups. The fighting has killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 2 million people in Africa’s youngest state, which became independent from Sudan in 2011.
Source: GNA/News Ghana