Population: 36.2 million (16.5 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 104,300
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 26 July 2005
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182

Thousands of child soldiers were recruited and used by armed forces, government-backed militias and armed opposition groups in Sudan. Recruitment of children from refugee camps in Chad occurred in 2006. DDR efforts were hampered by ongoing conflict in Darfur and the lack of basic infrastructure for successful reintegration in the south.


Armed conflict continued in Darfur and delays to the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) threatened to derail the consolidation of peace in southern Sudan.1 The CPA officially ended more than two decades of north – south conflict between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). It provided for a six-year interim power-sharing agreement to be followed by a referendum in 2011, in which the people of southern Sudan would vote on self-determination. In the interim, the CPA established the transitional Khartoum-based government of national unity (GoNU) and a semi-autonomous Government of southern Sudan, based in Juba, southern Sudan. Under the CPA the national and southern governments shared power, resources and wealth but maintained separate constitutions, armies, budgets and laws.2 The president of the former government of Sudan, General Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, became president of the national unity government, while the first vice-presidency was assumed by the southern Sudan president and leader of the SPLM, Dr John Garang de Mabior, who was killed in a helicopter crash in July 2005 and replaced by Salva Kiir Mayardit.3 UN Security Council Resolution 1590 of 24 March 2005 mandated a UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to support and monitor implementation of the CPA.4

The CPA required all other armed groups to join either the former Sudanese government's armed forces – the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) – or the SPLA by 9 January 2006.5 The January 2006 Juba Declaration on Unity and Integration was signed by the SPLA and the former South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF), which comprised most of the militias in southern Sudan previously backed by Khartoum.6 However, the incomplete integration of other armed groups into the SAF and SPLA led to continued tensions in the south.

The CPA's Abyei Protocol provided for shared government in the oil-rich Abyei transitional region. The Protocol granted Abyei special administrative status, an interim oil-revenue sharing plan, and a 2011 referendum to decide whether to join what might be an independent southern Sudan. However, in violation of the CPA, the NCP rejected the July 2005 Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) report on demarcation of the region. Both the SPLA and the SAF increased their forces in and around the Abyei region and along the border between north and south. Under the CPA, SAF troops were required to hand over control of the southern oilfields to joint patrols by 9 July 2007, but the deadline was missed.7 In 2006 and 2007 both the SAF and SPLA severely restricted UN military observers' movements in the Abyei region.8 In violation of the CPA the NCP continued to sponsor proxy militias, and hostilities continued in oil-producing areas.9 In October 2007 the SPLM temporarily suspended participation in the national unity government, citing among other concerns lack of progress over demarcation of the Abyei region, transparency of oil revenues and preparations for the census and 2009 national elections.10

Conflict continued in Darfur with the opposition Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) (both non-Arab ethnically based groups) fighting the SAF and their proxy Janjaweed militias over perceived exclusion from state structures of power and wealth.11 Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and over 2.4 million displaced during the conflict, which had begun in 2003.12 The mandate of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), set up to monitor a failed April 2004 ceasefire, was expanded in October 2004 to protect civilians.13 However, it had limited success in stabilizing the region and itself came under attack.14

The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA),15 signed in May 2006 between the national unity government and a faction of the SLA headed by Minni Minawi (SLA Minawi), was rejected by the JEM and other SLA factions. These groups criticized the DPA for failing to address sufficiently power-sharing, representation in government, disarmament of the Janjaweed militia, and a victim's compensation fund.16 The DPA was followed by fragmentation and proliferation of armed groups and an intensification of violence. Elements of the armed opposition groups that did not sign the DPA regrouped as the National Redemption Front (NRF), and from late June 2006 launched a series of attacks against the government.17

In August 2006 the NCP launched a new offensive; its forces bombed villages, killing and displacing hundreds of civilians, including children.18 The NCP continued to support and arm some tribal and militia groups through selective arms dealings and unilateral negotiations.19 Despite repeated disarmament promises it continued to incorporate the Janjaweed into official security structures and paramilitary groups such as the Border Intelligence Brigade and the Popular Defence Forces. The Janjaweed continued to receive training and financial and material assistance from the government, including vehicle-mounted heavy machine guns and mortars. The NCP ordered the reopening of the Popular Military Defence (PMD) military training camps around the country.20 In April 2007 the government formally launched the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDRA), the highest governing body for the region.21

Throughout 2007 the SAF, the Janjaweed and Darfur armed groups continued to commit serious human rights abuses.22 Continuing violence and NCP intransigence severely limited access for humanitarian agencies in Darfur.23 As of July 2007, 2.2 million displaced people lived in camps in Darfur, and an estimated 80 per cent of the camp population were women and children.24 A UN arms embargo was imposed on Darfur under UN Security Council Resolution 1591 of March 2005.25 However, the IDP camps were increasingly violent and militarized.26 Rape and other sexual violence against women and girls were widespread. Younger girls were specifically targeted for rape, and many victims identified the perpetrators as members of the SAF, the central reserve police and the Janjaweed.27 In August 2006 over 200 women and girls were sexually assaulted over a five-week period in Kalma camp in south Darfur.28

Twelve years of conflict in eastern Sudan over perceived political and economic marginalization under the Khartoum government was brought to an official end by the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) in October 2006. The ESPA was signed by the GoNU and the Eastern Sudan Front, a coalition of armed groups including the Beja Congress and the Free Lions Movement representing the Rashaida ethnic group. In October 2006 eight Eastern Front members took office in the National Assembly in accordance with the ESPA.29 However, implementation of the ESPA was limited.

In July 2007 UN Security Council Resolution 1769 established a hybrid UN – African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), with the aim of improving protection for civilians in Darfur, and specifically requesting that the protection of children be addressed in the implementation of the DPA. In addition it called for "continued dialogue with the parties towards the preparations of time-bound action plans to end recruitment and use of child soldiers and other violations against children".30 UNAMID was expected to become operational by the end of 2007.

Relations between Chad and Sudan deteriorated substantially in 2006 and 2007, each government accusing the other of supporting its armed opposition groups.31 Increasingly frequent Janjaweed cross-border attacks into eastern Chad were reported, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.32 As of late 2007 there were approximately 240,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad, 60 per cent of whom were estimated to be children.33


National recruitment legislation and practice

The 2005 interim constitution stated that "Defence of the Country is an honour and duty of every citizen" and "Every citizen shall defend the country and respond to the call for national defence and national service".34 Under the National Service Law of 1992 (under review in late 2007), all men between 18 and 33 were liable for military service, which applied to all branches of the armed forces.35 The length of military service was 18 months for high-school graduates, 12 months for university and college graduates and 24 months in all other cases. According to the law, women were also liable for military service but in practice were not called up.36 The draft Sudan Armed Forces Act, which set 18 as the minimum age for recruitment and criminalized the recruitment of children, had not reached the National Assembly as of June 2007.

Southern Sudan's interim constitution, adopted in December 2005, defined a child as anyone under the age of 18. It stated that "Defence of the Sudan in general and Southern Sudan in particular, is an honour and a duty of every citizen" and that "Every citizen shall ... defend the country and respond to the call for national service".37 In Southern Sudan, the Child Bill 2006, which prohibited the recruitment of children, passed its first reading in the Southern Sudan Assembly in June 2007.38 Recruitment and use of children was a breach of both the CPA and the DPA.39

Child recruitment and deployment

Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)

The SAF denied recruitment or use of children in their forces, but military officials acknowledged that children from armed groups were transferred into their forces during the unification process. In May 2006, child soldiers were seen in a newly integrated SAF unit. In August 2006 the SAF estimated that there were approximately 19,000 soldiers in these units and it was thought that a significant number of them were under 18.40 There were reports of children associated with both the SAF and allied militias in Darfur.41

Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA)

The SPLA acknowledged that it had child soldiers in its ranks and made high-level commitments to end their recruitment and use. However, 47 children were reported in the Kilo 7 barracks in Bentiu (Unity state) in July 2006, and they were not released until July 2007. These children had been enticed by SPLA junior officers who promised education in Southern Sudan. SPLA forces raided a school in Nasir, Upper Nile, in October 2006 and abducted 32 boys for the purpose of recruitment. All but two were subsequently released. In September 2007 the UN confirmed the presence of children associated with SPLA forces in Southern Sudan. The youngest of the children was nine and the average age 16.42

Armed Groups:

Militias and armed groups associated with the SPLA

Militias increased recruitment, including child recruitment, before incorporation into either the SAF or SPLA in order to bolster their numbers and strengthen their negotiating power. Commanders from Southern Sudan were confirmed to be actively recruiting children in Khartoum. Some armed groups in the SSDF continued to recruit children after their incorporation into the SPLA in January 2006.43 The Pibor Defence Forces, a group allied to the SPLA in April 2007, was responsible for the recruitment and use of at least 78 children, the youngest of whom was a boy aged six. The Southern Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Commission was notified of their presence. Following the formal change of alliance from the SAF to the SPLA in April 2007, the whereabouts of the children were unknown.44

Armed groups in Darfur

Thousands of children were recruited and used by numerous armed groups in Darfur and actively involved in the armed conflict between May and July 2006. IDPs interviewed in May 2006 following Sudan government-backed Janjaweed militia attacks on villages near Kutum, northern Darfur, said that many armed child soldiers were among those who attacked them and Janjaweed were known to have recruited children from Sudanese refugee camps in Chad in 2006.45 In May 2006 SLA-Minawi was observed forcibly recruiting boys in Gereida, and in April 2007 armed children believed to be as young as 12 were identified with SLA-Minawi in northern Darfur. Recruitment continued in 2007 by SLA-Minawi, factions of the SLA which had not signed the DPA and the opposition JEM (Peace Wing).46

Chadian-backed Sudanese armed opposition groups

Massive recruitment by Sudanese armed opposition groups took place in March and April 2006 among the refugee and IDP communities in eastern Chad. Recruitment was at times carried out forcibly, with reports of torture as a coercive means. In July 2007 the UN reported that the Chadian government had alleged that more than 1,000 children had been recruited by the SLA in refugee camps in the east.47 In March 2006 the G-19 faction of the SLA, working in co-operation with Chadian government officials, recruited, some forcibly, 4,700 Sudanese refugees, including hundreds of children, from the Breidjing and Treguine UN-supervised refugee camps 50 km west of Adré in eastern Chad.48 Most of these people subsequently returned to the camps. In 2006 Sudanese children were recruited from the Djabal and Goz Amir refugee camps in eastern Chad, where teachers were among the recruiters.49 In January 2007, 39 children were recruited from the Breidjing refugee camp by Sudanese armed opposition groups.50

Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan armed opposition group, was present in southern Sudan and attacked and killed civilians. Peace talks between the LRA and the Ugandan government began in July 2006 in Juba and a cessation-of-hostilities agreement was signed in August 2006.51 The LRA forcibly recruited children from southern Sudan in the first half of 2007.52 While the total number of remaining LRA fighters remained unknown, up to 2,000 women and children were believed to remain in LRA camps.53

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR):

The CPA obliged its signatories to demobilize all children in their ranks by July 2005. The National Council for DDR Co-ordination and the Northern Sudan DDR Commission were established by the CPA in February 2006 and a DDR Commission for Southern Sudan was created in May 2006. Despite the establishment of dedicated children's desks within these commissions, DDR was hampered by continued conflict in Darfur and by the lack of basic infrastructure in communities. Large numbers of children were still held in military barracks beyond the CPA deadline and some children returned to the armed forces because of the lack of an effective reintegration program.54

From 2001 to April 2006 an estimated 20,000 children from the SPLA were demobilized and returned to their families and communities with UNICEF support, but an estimated 2,000 children were still associated with the SPLA, mainly in non-combat roles and in remote areas.55 As of August 2007, the Southern Sudan DDR Commission planned for the further release and reintegration of almost 600 children from SPLA ranks in Southern Sudan. Following training on child protection for 64 SPLA and SAF field commanders, in June 2007 commanders from both forces made a commitment to end child recruitment, and an Area Joint Military Committee action plan to address abductions, rape and sexual violence was developed in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity states.56

An action plan for the identification and release of children was signed between SLA-Minawi and UNICEF on 11 June 2007. The action plan was anticipated to benefit approximately 1,800 children. Talks by UNMIS and UNICEF with representatives of SLA (Wahid), SLA (Shafi), and SLA (Free Will) indicated that the groups were willing to collaborate with the international community towards the release of children in their ranks. However, by the end of June 2007 no concrete commitments to release children had been made by those armed groups.57

Preparations for a children's DDR program by UNICEF in collaboration with the Northern Sudan DDR Commission and the Eastern Front were being developed in mid-2007. As of August 2007, preparations were under way between the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Northern Sudan DDR Commission for the return and assembly of former fighters of the Eastern Front.58 In late 2007 the UN Secretary-General reported that as part of the 2006 Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement 3,700 ex-combatants were being demobilized, 250 of whom were children.59


Mrs Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative for children and armed conflict, visited Sudan in January 2007, following which the government of Southern Sudan committed to increasing the budget for children's DDR programs. The national unity government agreed to allow UNICEF and UNMIS to visit and monitor SAF camps as well as the military barracks of armed forces and groups allied with it. It also agreed to adopt and implement national legislation to criminalize recruitment of child soldiers. DPA signatories and non-signatories committed to co-operating with preparation of action plans to identify and release children associated with their forces.60

At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, Sudan and 58 other states endorsed the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The documents reaffirmed international standards and operational principles for protecting and assisting child soldiers and followed a wide-ranging global consultation jointly sponsored by the French government and UNICEF.

In May 2007 the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs in the Sudan government and a Janjaweed leader on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2003 and 2004 in Darfur.61 The Sudanese government refused to co-operate with the ICC.62

Several parties in Sudan were listed as recruiting or using children in situations of armed conflict in the December 2007 Secretary-General's report on children and armed conflict.63

International standards

Sudan ratified the Optional Protocol in July 2005. In its declaration it stated that it was committed to maintaining a minimum age of 18 for voluntary service and "a prohibition of forced or voluntary conscription" of under-18s.64

1 Human Rights Watch (HRW), Sudan country summary, Human Rights Watch World Report 2008.

2 United Nations Mission in Sudan, Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Sudan People's Liberation Army, www.unmis.org.

3 International Crisis Group (ICG), "Garang's death: implications for peace in Sudan", Africa Briefing No. 30, 9 August 2005, www.crisisgroup.org.

4 UN Security Council Resolution 1590(2005), UN Doc. S/RES/1590 (2005), 24 March 2005.

5 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, above note 2.

6 John Young, "The South Sudan Defence Forces in the wake of the Juba Declaration", Small Arms Survey, November 2006, www.smallarmssurvey.org/; Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Sudan, UN Doc. S/2006/662, 17 August 2006.

7 ICG, "Sudan: Breaking the Abyei Deadlock", Africa Briefing No. 47, 12 October 2007.

8 UNMIS, CPA Monitor, October 2007, www.unmis.org/common/documents/cpa-monitor/cpaMonitor_oct07.pdf

9 UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, "Visit to Sudan of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Mission Report", 24 January – 2 February 2007, www.un.org/children/conflict/_documents/countryvisits/SudanVisitReport.p....

10 UNMIS, The CPA Monitor, October 2007, www.unmis.org.

11 ICG, "Darfur: Revitalising the Peace Process", Africa Report No. 125, 30 April 2007.

12 HRW, Darfur 2007: Chaos by Design, September 2007.

13 HRW, Darfur: Whose Responsibility to Protect? January 2005.

14 HRW, Sudan: Peacekeeper Killings Are War Crimes, 1 October 2007.

15 UNMIS, Darfur Peace Agreement, 5 May 2006, www.unmis.org.

16 ICG, "Darfur's Fragile Peace Agreement", Africa Briefing No. 39, 20 June 2006.

17 ICG, "Getting the UN into Darfur", policy briefing, Africa Briefing No. 43, 12 October 2006.

18 "Sudan", Human Rights Watch World Report 2007.

19 ICG, above note 11.

20 ICG, "Darfur's New Security Reality", Africa Report No. 134, 26 November 2007.

21 ICG, above note 11.

22 Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Sudan, UN Doc. S/2007/520, 29 August 2007.

23 ICG, above note 20.

24 United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Darfur, Humanitarian Needs, 4 September 2007, http://ochaonline2.un.org.

25 UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (2005), UN Doc. S/RES/1591 (2005), 29 March 2005.

26 ICG, above note 20.

27 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 22.

28 "Sudan", above note 18.

29 ICG, "Sudan: Saving Peace in the East", Africa Report No. 102, 5 January 2006; Amnesty International (AI), "Sudan", Amnesty International Report 2007; UNMIS, The CPA Monitor, October 2006, www.unmis.org.

30 African Union and United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).

31 Report of the Secretary-General on Chad and the Central African Republic, 22 December 2006, UN Doc. S/2006/1019.

32 AI, "Chad", Amnesty International Report 2007.

33 UN OCHA, "Humanitarian Action in Chad: Facts and Figures Snapshot Report", 15 November 2007, www.reliefweb.int.

34 Interim National Constitution of the Republic of the Sudan 2005, www.unmis.org.

35 Child Soldiers Coalition, correspondence with Sudanese NGO, September 2007.

36 War Resisters' International, Sudan, 15 July 1998, www.wri-irg.org.

37 Government of Southern Sudan Interim Constitution, United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), The CPA Monitor, October 2007, www.unmis.org.

38 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 22.

39 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, above note 2; Darfur Peace Agreement, 5 May 2006, UNMIS, www.unmis.org.

40 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 6.

41 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 22.

42 Ibid.

43 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 6.

44 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 22.

45 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 6.

46 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 22.

47 Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Chad, 3 July 2007, UN Doc. S/2007/400.

48 HRW, Violence beyond Borders: The Human Rights Crisis in Eastern Chad, June 2006.

49 Report of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict, UN Doc. A/61/529-S/2006/826, 26 October 2006.

50 Report of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict, UN Doc. A/62/609-S/2007/757, 21 December 2007.

51 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 22.

52 "Edward Lomude: 'LRA soldiers beat me and left me for dead'", IRIN, July 2007.

53 Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Uganda, UN Doc. S/2007/260, 7 May 2007.

54 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 22.

55 UNICEF, "UNICEF welcomes child demobilisation in Southern Sudan", 24 April 2006, www.unicef.org.

56 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 22.

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid.

59 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 50.

60 UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, above note 9.

61 International Criminal Court, "Warrants for Arrest for the Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs of Sudan, and a leader of the Militia/Janjaweed", press release, 2 May 2007, www.icc-cpi.int.

62 HRW, above note 1.

63 Report of the Secretary-General, above note 50.

64 Declaration on accession to the Optional Protocol, www2.ohchr.org.


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