A march that began at Bahr El Ghazal University, winding through Wau town’s streets with fanfare, terminated at the Wau Stadium, where a tug-of-peace contest awaited eager participants and spectators.
At the stadium, stood United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) staff and South Sudan Prison officers at both ends of the rope, both sides flexing their muscles enthusiastically before a show of pulling together for peace, with an even more important message on the day.
If children are taken care of and given opportunity to go to school, they will become leaders and good citizens, said James Majak, a resident of Hai Nazareth, during the event which was organized by the UNMISS Child Protection Unit in Wau to mark the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers.
Mr. Majak urged parents to provide their children with basic needs to allow them think only of school rather than thinking about criminal activities or military service.
Do not recruit children into the army or organized forces as children are not soldiers, said Christina Gabriel Ali, Minister of Gender in Wau.
The minister called on all the organized forces to make sure children are not part of their ranks, and not to associate with them in their barracks or military facilities.
She also appealed to parents to encourage their children to choose education and do all they can for their wellbeing.
It happened during liberation in 1987 when the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) took all the children to Ethiopia for education, said Brigadier Simon Ali, representing the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) Division Five in Wau.
Brig. Ali said the SSPDF in Wau had screened out children from the army since 2012 and assured of their commitment to keep children out of the army.
He also noted that it was the responsibility of the parents to provide children with basic needs and take them to school, but if they failed then the children would run to the barracks for recruitment to survive.
Today is an important day in the lives of these children especially in the new millennium where the future of these children matters most, said Sam Muhumure, UNMISS Head of Field Office in Wau.
Mr. Muhumure said the lives of children in South Sudan were characterized by displacement, inadequate food and being involved in the use of arms, noting that the day was important to raise awareness.
As a government and citizens, we have a moral responsibility to take children to schools for a better future of South Sudan, said Mario John Nybang, Minister of Education in Wau.
Mr. Nybang said it was the duty of the government to see that all children are screened from the organized forces and taken back to school, as he urged citizens in Wau to take advantage of peace and educate children for the development of their country.
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan