By Archibong Asuquo
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has said that more than 145 child soldiers were on Wednesday released by armed groups in South Sudan.
A statement issued by UNICEF in Juba, said the release, secured in collaboration with a government disarmament commission, was the largest since 2015, when 1,775 children were freed.
It said the child soldiers were released by rebels supporting former Vice President Riek Machar and another armed group known as the Cobra Faction.
“The children were due to be placed in a care centre while their families were being traced,’’the UN organization said.
UNICEF said an estimated 16,000 children had been recruited by the army, the rebels and allied militias since a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and Machar escalated into a military conflict in December 2013.
“More than 800 of the children were recruited this year.
Sam David from Cobra Faction, a militia comprising mainly members of the Murle ethnic group, said it had released child soldiers without receiving financial compensation.
Army Spokesman, Lul-Ruai Koang, said the Cobra Faction is in the process of being integrated into the South Sudanese army, which no longer recruits children.
South Sudan’s civil conflict had killed tens of thousands and displaced about 2.5 million people.
The formation of a unity government in April was expected to bring peace, but fighting erupted again in July, sending Machar into exile.