23 December 2008Sudan’s military and child welfare authorities have partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to protect children’s rights and prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in the war-torn African nation. The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Sudan’s National Council for Child Welfare (NCWW) and UNICEF signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday to create a Child Rights Unit in the SAF to enforce the 2007 Sudan People’s Armed Forces Act, which sets 18 as the minimum age for armed forces recruitment. The Unit will also help SAF educate personnel about the Act and other child protection laws ratified by Sudan. NCCW and UNICEF will give the Unit technical support. UNICEF will also offer more specialized training and funds for the Unit to carry out its work.UNICEF hailed the move as a “remarkable step forward and a significant commitment” by Sudan’s Government to enforce child protection.“Sudan is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as other international and national instruments that are designed to protect women and children. However, the signing of this Memorandum increases the potential for implementation, and thus strengthens protection of children and prevention from recruitment into the armed forces,” said Ted Chaiban, the outgoing UNICEF Representative in Sudan. The Memorandum is the outcome of a partnership begun early in the year among SAF, NCWW and UNICEF to train 190 SAF officers in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, and in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million displaced from their homes since rebels began fighting the SAF and allied militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, in 2003.