PolicyBrief: Recruitment of Children Armed Militias in Sudan


Topic:Recruitment of Children Armed Militias in Sudan




Thecivil war in Sudan has affected all citizens, but the impacts havebeen disproportionately higher for children. The warring militias(including the Sudan People’s Liberation Army) have been recruitingchildren to expand their military capacity, especially when the warintensifies (UNICEF, 2015). A total of 15,500 children had beendeployed in the affected region by the end of the year 2015 (SOSChildren, 2016). The use of children in war has resulted in social aswell as economic impacts as discussed in this policy brief.

Magnitudeof the issue of child soldiers in Sudan:

Theissue of recruitment of children into armed groups has persistedsince 1956, when Sudan gained her independence. The menace of childsoldiers has affected both the North and South Sudan as each of thesides try to increase their military capacity. However, most of thechildren have been recruited into the armed groups within the lastone and a half decades, which has been attributed to an increase inintensity of the war between the North and the South as well as thecivil conflicts that began in several parts of South Sudan in 2014.It is estimated that about 6,500 and 9,000 kids had been recruited aschild army by the fighting groups by the end of 2015 in North andSouth Sudan respectively (SOS Children, 2016).

Thereis a direct relationship between the intensity of war and the rate ofrecruitment of children. For example, more than 4,500 children wererecruited and deployed in Darfur region alone (UNICEF, 2015). Thismenace has persisted, in spite of the numerous measures that havebeen taken by the stakeholders, including the internationalcommunity. For an instant, Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement, the CPA,and Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) that required all the warring groupsto release children that each of them held as soldiers have been inexistence for several years. However, it is only 1,200 (7.74 % of allkid soldiers) children who have been released. This is a clearindication that the portfolio of the current measures is not workingas expected.

Theaffected population:

Althoughtrends indicate that children at all age groups are affected directlyand indirectly by the civil wars taking place in Sudan, therecruiting militias target children who can hold weapons and engagethe opponents in a battle. According to SOS Children (2016) most ofthe child soldiers are aged between 10 years and 17 years, but thereare several cases where the armed groups have recruited kids as youngas seven years. Class is another component that has been consideredregarding the issue of child soldiers in Sudan. Households from theruling class and the wealthy members of the society are able tomigrate to other countries and safer regions. Consequently, childrenfrom the poor households are more vulnerable to the armed groups. The menace of children deployed into the civil war in Sudan affectsthe most vulnerable children and households that benefit the leastfrom successes obtained from the conflicts.

Riskfactors for the menace of child soldiers:

Thereare three key factors that increase the risk of children beingrecruited and deployed to the battlefields in Sudan. The first andthe most critical element is the existence of a poor politicalsystem. Persistence of civil wars in South Sudan is attributed to apolitical system that is dominated by power-hungry leaders (UNICEF,2016). For example, frequent episodes of civil wars that haveoccurred in South Sudan in 2015 and 2016 were caused by the powerstruggles between the President, Salva Kiir, and the vice president,Machar Riek (Kasamani, 2015). The frequencies with which these warsoccur motivate the armed groups to recruit and retain children intheir forces in preparation for battles that may break out any time.

Thesecond risk factor is existence of natural resources near theboarders. The war in Darfur has taken place for many years as thenorth and the south Sudan struggle to take control over oil reservesin the region. Each of the sides recruits children in an attempt toexpand their military capacity and take control of the naturalresources.

Proliferationof arms is an emerging risk factor in civil wars and recruitment ofchildren as a strategy for expanding the militias. Arms increase theintensity of war, which creates the need to have a large number ofwarriors.

Economicand social effects:

Therecruitment of children by the armed groups has three key impacts onthem and their households. First, the recruitment exacerbatesgenerational poverty. This is because children who are recruited anddeployed to the battle fields miss the opportunity to pursue academicgoals, which limits their ability to access better-paying jobs in thefuture (SOS Children, 2016). This has created a scenario in whichpoverty persists in the most vulnerable families. Secondly, a largenumber of recruits die in the war while a percentage of them aremaimed each year. Studies show that over 600 children who were sentto fight for their ethnic groups in Sudan have been killed while over200 of them have been maimed within the last one decade (UNICEF,2014). This is a significant social impact that left the affectedhouseholds grieving. The country has also lost the future workforceby subjecting hundreds of thousands of children to the risk of deathand illiteracy. The national economy will be affected negatively inthe long-run.

Conclusionand priority action steps:

TheSudan’s warring groups have been using children in the civil wars,in spite of the fact that the country has created laws (including theFederal Child Act) and entered into an agreement with the militias tofacilitate the released of recruited kids. This indicates that thereis a need for a change in strategies. This policy brief recommendsthree strategies that can help UNICEF achieve the goal of reducingthe number of children used in civil wars in Sudan.

Stopany cooperation and assistance to non-compliant groups: In mostcases, the liberation groups receive weapons, finance, and otherforms of assistance from the international organizations (UNICEF,2014). By making it a precondition that each group must release itskid soldier, UNICEF and other well wishers will be able reduce themenace.

Cooperatewith former warring individuals and groups to identify and releasechild soldiers: The law states clearly that the use of children assoldiers is prohibited in Sudan (UNICEF, 2014). This implies thatUNICEF can cooperate with the military formed by transitionalgovernment and militias that have stopped using children to bringnon-compliant armies to book.

Provisionof more resources to local child protection units: In the past, theinternational organizations have been using their own strategies toreach the warring groups and pursued them to release child soldiers(UNICEF, 2014). This should change and UNICEF start providingresources and support to local initiative groups that understand theculture and trends related to Sudan’s civil war. It is easier forthe local child protection agencies and community elders to reach thewarring groups and convince them to stop recruiting children.


Kasamani,I. (2015). South Sudan president Salva Kiir names arch-rival RiekMachar as vice-president. DailyNation.Retrieved July 17, 2016, fromhttp://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/South-Sudan-Salva-Kiir-names-Riek-Machar-vice-president/-/1066/3073806/-/1162of3z/-/index.html

SOSChildren (2016). Child soldiers in Sudan. SOSChildren.Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.child-soldier.org/sudan

UNICEF(2014). Press release: With 15 million children caught up in majorconflicts, UNICEF declares 2014 a devastating year for children.UNICEF.Retrieved July 17, 2016, fromhttp://www.unicef.org/media/media_78058.html

UNICEF(2015). FactSheet: Children associated with armed groups and forces centralAfrica.New York, NY: UNICEF.

UNICEF(2016). Endingthe recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts.New York, NY: UNICEF.