The joint Darfur Child Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program, a voluntary program established by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, for child soldiers in Sudan, has been making progress in recent weeks. Last Tuesday, 36 former child soldiers from Tora, a town in North Darfur, completed the first stage of the program by turning in their weapons and renouncing their allegiance to rebel armed forces. The children have been given backpacks with school and educational supplies, as well as sports equipment, and will now enter into the program’s rehabilitation and reintegration phase.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Force (SPLA) and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) recruited child soldiers throughout the decades-long civil war between North and South Sudan, often enticing them by offering them an education and the chance to defend their villages.
By signing the CPA, these groups agreed that disarmament and reintegration of child soldiers would be necessary to achieve social stability in Sudan. Reducing the size of armed forces in this way would also allow for more public funds to be channeled to the social sector as opposed to the military.
The National DDR Council, which has branches in both northern and southern Sudan, is in charge of the program, but receives significant material and technical support from UNMIS, UNDP, and UNICEF. The SAF and SPLA also play a crucial role in the program by providing the names of those children they deem eligible to participate.
Challenges for the future still remain. The program requires vast resources to be maintained and many of the former child soldiers involved do not have the type of education or counseling to successfully reintegrate into civilian society.
However, despite the obstacles, 17 more child soldiers are scheduled to enter the latter stage of the program later this week, and 2,000 more have been identified as ready and willing to enter the program in the future.