300 child soldiers released in South Sudan

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More than 300 child soldiers have been released by armed groups in South Sudan, including 87 girls, the UN has said.

The children were formally disarmed and provided civilian clothing during a ceremony in Yambio before being integrated back into society. A total of 311 children were released – the largest number freed in almost three years – in what was hailed as “a crucial step” in having all child soldiers released.

‘They told me to kill my mother’

One former child soldier attending Wednesday’s ceremony – a 17-year-old boy named Christopher – told Associated Press how he was forced to kill his own mother. Christopher was abducted at the age of 10 and recruited as a child soldier. However, his mother came to find him and pleaded for his release.

“They told me to kill my mother,” he told AP. ” When she came they told me to shoot her or I’d be killed instead, I had no option. I just asked God to forgive me.”

It was the first time Christopher had fired a gun and when he pulled the trigger, it jammed. His mother escaped.

‘A crucial step’

Mahimbo Mdoe, South Sudan representative for Unicef, hailed Wednesday’s release of children as “a crucial step” in the process of releasing all child soldiers from South Sudan’s civil conflict.

“This is a crucial step in achieving our ultimate goal of having all of the thousands of children still in the ranks of armed groups reunited with their families,” he said. “It is the largest release of children in nearly three years and it is vital that negotiations continue so there are many more days like this.”

Featured image: By USAID Africa Bureau – A young girl hangs the South Sudan flag, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21460264