Darfur rebels commit to protect children in conflict region

“We also bear responsibility for the protection of children as parties to the conflict in Darfur and Sudan.”

Darfur's three main rebel groups have agreed on exerting more efforts to protect children in the conflict areas, and to adhere to the existing international standards.

Leaders of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid El Nur (SLM-AW) and the SLM under the command of Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) made their commitment at the end of a consultative meeting held in Stadtschlaining, Austria, on Wednesday and Thursday, at the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution.

The groups admitted that “as parties to the conflict in Darfur/Sudan, we have a moral and legal obligation to respect, protect, and promote the rights of children […] We also bear responsibility for the protection of children”.

In the statement, they pledged to make all efforts to prevent their forces from hurting or violating any children rights. They mentioned that the engagement of protecting children should not await a formal comprehensive peace agreement, a silent reference to the ruling party's National Dialogue initiative that aims to include all of Sudan's political parties.

“The continued fighting results in mass displacement, which deepens the deprivation and hardship of communities, especially children.”

Following the rebels' renewed commitment (see the document below) to adhere to the international norms on children and armed conflict, they expressed readiness to engage in follow-up consultations with the Sudanese government until a comprehensive peace agreement is reached.

Since 2009, six parties to the conflict in Darfur have established action plans to end recruitment and use of child soldiers. In July 2010, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) signed a child protection agreement, which includes ending the recruitment of child soldiers in Darfur, with the JEM. The SLM-MM decided to do so in December 2014.

The Japanese ambassador to Sudan called for an end to the suffering of children in the conflict areas of Darfur during the conclusion of his visit to the region this week. Since the start of 2015, the needs of 50,605 people have been assessed and verified by aid organisations in Darfur, of which some sixty percent are estimated to be children, according to Unicef Representative Geert Cappelaere.

Related article:

'450 Darfuri child soldiers registered in 2013': researcher (10 November 2014)