Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Sudan

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Sudan, 2001, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 28,883,000
    – under-18 population: 13,618,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 104,900
    – paramilitary: 15,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 17
  • Voluntary recruitment age: unknown
  • Voting age (government elections): 17
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government and opposition forces
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC
  • There has been extensive use of child soldiers, including some as young as ten, by both government and opposition armed forces. The government has also provided military support to the Lords Resistance Army in Uganda – a group notorious for its abduction, forced recruitment and brutal treatment of children. Armed opposition groups, including the SPLA are known to have children in their ranks. In February 2001, the SPLA cooperated with UNICEF in the demobilisation of 3,200 child soldiers.


Sudan has experienced civil war in the south of the country for 18 years; the conflict spread in 1986 to the central Nuba mountains and in 1995 to the east of Sudan, becoming a war of marginalised groups against the centre. The war is estimated to have resulted in 2 million deaths, directly or indirectly (ie by famine and illness caused by civilian displacement). The principal insurgent group is the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), led by John Garang. In 1995, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was formed as a broad political alliance that includes the SPLA and insurgent forces operating out of Ethiopia and Eritrea carrying out offensives along the Sudanese border. In 2000 the government and SPLA met on four occasions with mediators from the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), but there was no significant progress towards peace.

There are also several smaller factions, the largest of which broke from the SPLA on ethnic lines in 1991, became the South Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A), entered into a peace agreement with the government and was recognised as the South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) in 1997. Another group formed by the same leader, the Sudan People's Democratic Front/Defence Forces (SPDF), was declared a rebel movement, but appeared to have accepted government support in 2000.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Article 35 (1)(b) of the new Constitution adopted in June 1998 provides, "Every citizen shall defend the country and respond to the call for national defence and national service." The National Service Law of 1992 provides that all men between 18 and 33 years old are liable for military service. Military service lasts for 24 months, 18 months for high school graduates and 12 months for university and college graduates. In 1997 the government also issued a Decree by which all boys of ages 17 to 19 were obliged to do between 12 and 18 months compulsory military service to be able to receive a certificate on leaving secondary school, which is required for entry into a university.

Child Recruitment and Deployment

Paramilitaries and armed groups aligned with the government of Sudan have a long history of forced recruitment, including of children under 18 (the youngest age recorded in the past being a child of 10 years old). The Popular Defence Forces (PDF), a militia with a formal relationship to the authorities, were reported to have recruited, often forcibly, thousands of children, although levels of child recruitment are believed to have fallen since the mid-1990s.

  • Tribal Militias in Western Sudan

The government has also continued its policy of arming militias of the Baggara tribes (the "murahaleen" of Western Sudan). These tribes then carry out raids into southern Sudan, primarily against the Dinkas in Bahr el Ghazal, while they are accompanying and guarding troop trains to the southern garrison town of Wau. The murahaleen are reported to have captured women and children who are then taken north where they are sold as slaves.

  • Other government-allied groups

Pro-government militias in southern Sudan are also reported to use children as soldiers. Paulino Matip, in his government-armed militia, is reported to have forcibly conscripted boys as young as 10 to serve as soldiers.1811

  • South Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A)

The SSIM/A, which formed from a breakaway faction of the SPLA, entered into a peace agreement with the government and was recognised as the South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) in 1997. The SSDF agreed in 1998 with UNICEF and Rädda Barnen on a program of demobilisation of child soldiers. That program was underway with 280 child soldiers between the age of 10 and 18 registered and demobilised and living in a transit centre in Thonyor, near Ler, Western Upper Nile, southern Sudan, when in May 1999 fighting broke out between the SSDF and another government-controlled militia. As a result, the child soldiers scattered. Many were remobilised by the factions. In 2000, some 200 were re-demobilised and an additional 88 demobilised for the first time. They were in a transit centre in Nyal, Western Upper Nile, a stronghold of the Sudan People's Democratic Front/Defence Forces (SPDF), formed in January 2000 by the same leader, Riek Machar. The SPDF was declared a rebel movement, but appeared to have accepted government support in 2000.1812


Child Recruitment and Deployment

  • SPLA

Representatives of the SPLA have repeatedly provided assurances to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan that they would discontinue the use of child soldiers.

In early 2001, the SPLA cooperated with UNICEF and other organisations in the demobilisation of 3,200 child soldiers. The children were transported from areas in SPLA-held Bahr El Ghazal to the SPLA controlled town of Rumbek from 23-28 February, 2001. The evacuation followed a pledge given by SPLA Chief of Staff Salva Kiir to UNICEF to demobilise all child soldiers in the SPLA forces. The SPLA have stated that there are 7,000 more child soldiers still to be demobilised. The government of Sudan formally protested the evacuation, claiming that the airlift was conducted secretly in violation of agreements between the UN and government. The government also criticised the fact that the children were evacuated to Rumbek rather than being repatriated with their families.1813 The SPLA rationale for the airlift was that they were expecting a government dry-season offensive in the area in which child soldiers were deployed and for safety reasons would not place a demobilisation transit centre in that area. Questions have been raised by NGOs about how many of the children released were actually child soldiers.

  • SPLM/A

In his report to the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur reported that the SPLM/A was responsible for forcibly recruiting children in December 1999 from the villages of Narus and Nimule in Eastern Equatoria.1814 Other sources also continue to report the continued use of children under the age of 18.1815


  • Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda

The government of Sudan has provided military and logistical support to the Ugandan armed group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which is estimated to hold 6000 Ugandan children captive on government controlled territory. The LRA is infamous for forcing both boys and girls to become soldiers and to participate in acts of brutality against other children and adults. Many of the girls have been raped and become concubines of LRA fighters. Sudan and Uganda agreed in October 2000 that the LRA would be disarmed and its camps moved 1000 km from the Ugandan border, and that the abducted Ugandan children would be returned. In return, Uganda agreed to halt support for the SPLA. While the government of Sudan claims to have stopped supporting the LRA, it has not complied with this agreement. Uganda's support for the SPLA does not appear to have altered either. The government of Sudan has assisted in repatriating a small number of individuals who had escaped from the LRA: the authorities assisted child protection agencies in repatriating 105 children and adults to Uganda between November 2000 and March 2001. In March and April 2001, following a request of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2000, a mission from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with participation from UNICEF and the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, visited Khartoum, Nairobi, Kampala and northern Uganda to examine the issue of abducted children.

1811 US State Department Report 2000.

1812 Information provided by HRW, 3/01.

1813 Sudan Protests UNICEF Child Soldier Airlift,, 7/3/01.

1814 Report of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan, E/CN.4/2000/36 para 24.

1815 HRW 2001 p.83; US State Department Report 2000.

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