David Shearer helps release over 300 Sudanese child soldiers in new UN role

  • 08/02/2018
Former Labour leader David Shearer helped to release child soliders in South Sudan.
Former Labour leader David Shearer helped to release child soliders in South Sudan. Photo credit: UNICEF

David Shearer's latest role with the United Nations has helped facilitate the release of hundreds of child soldiers in South Sudan.

The former Labour Party leader is the UN's Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

In a statement released on Thursday, UNMISS announced that 311 child soldiers have been officially released by armed groups in the South Sudan city of Yambio.

They will reintegrate back into their communities, Mr Shearer says.

"Children should not be carrying guns and killing each other," he says.

"They should be playing, learning, having fun with friends, protected and cherished by the adults around them."

A total of 700 children have been screened and registered for release in phases - 563 from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement and 137 associated with the Sudan People's Liberation Army In-Opposition.

Eighty-seven of the children released on Thursday are girls with the final total involved in the Yambio project expected to reach 220.

"They will have endured suffering, including sexual abuse. It is vital that they receive the support they need to rejoin their communities and that they are welcomed home by family and friends without any sense of stigma," Mr Shearer says.

UNMISS has been leading the project to release the children for more than six months, including providing peacekeeping troops to escort religious leaders into remote bush areas to make contact and negotiate with the armed groups.

Mr Shearer says the challenge ahead is to ensure the young people have the financial, practical, and emotional support they need to undertake training, find jobs, and access the opportunities they deserve to reach their full potential.