Myth of JEM child soldiers

Myth of JEM child soldiers

Friday 27 June 2008 04:15.

By Mahmoud A. Suleiman

June 26, 2008 — Observers say it is not a coincidence that the report by the London-based human rights group Waging Peace, to emerge in less than one month after the ruling NCP political propaganda machine accused the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) of using child soldiers in the Operation Long Arm (OLA) to launch its attack on Omdurman, showing some young men with facial injuries on TV footage. Waging Peace Organisation alleged in its report that refugees from the Darfur conflict as young as nine years old are being sold to armed rebel groups including Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) as child soldiers! Analysts thought that report lacked credibility, barefaced lie and the Waging Peace Organisation seemed as though worked in collusion with the infamous genocidal National Congress Party (NCP) regime and promoted the views of the pariah government of Sudan (GOS) against JEM. The organisation has landed itself in trouble by its heavy handed approach to a delicate matter at an inappropriate time.

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has got in its Organizational Structure a legal Secretariat/Department responsible for passing regulations which oblige the movement to abide by the Geneva Convention that prohibits enlistment of children as soldiers. JEM has never recruited children in its ranks. The JEM Statute strictly prohibits recruitment of men under the age of 18. Moreover, JEM has a humanitarian coordination officer who ensures compliance with this rule. The accusation was a drunken farce, blatant lie at its best and malicious allegation at its worst. Critics who understand the devilish tactics and dirty tricks of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of the NCP say that the children shown in the Sudan government television channel were street children who had been rounded up, subjected to bullying measures, beaten or lured them into a trap for the sake of their badly directed melodrama of smear campaign against JEM. There are credible reports that some of these children were taken from Qura’nic schools, such as Suaad al-Fatih, in the three- town Capital City of Khartoum.

This is a cheap political ploy which the genocidal regime in Khartoum has devised to tarnish the image of the Justice and Equality Movement. However, the National Congress Party elements, as always, had failed in their barmy dirty tasks. People have thought it was incumbent upon Waging Peace to exercise responsibility of being impartial when passing judgements on such sensitive issues. JEM wants to make its position abundantly clear that it has managed to attract into its membership enough number of brave and able adults to stand steadfast, defend and fight for the noble cause of the people of Sudan in Darfur. JEM, therefore, does not need to ever resort to use child soldiers.

In order to shed some light on the plight of children in Sudan under the reign of the National Congress Party (NCP) regime, it is worthwhile to obtain background information. Numbers of children on the streets of Khartoum have started to increase rapidly ever since the early 1980s, when many families moved there to escape the war in southern Sudan and the drought afflicting the western regions of Kordofan and Darfur. Two-thirds of the street children in Khartoum the National Capital of Sudan are estimated to sniff petrol-based tyre repair glue.Available data on child labour and street children in Sudan suggests that the number of street children in northern Sudan was around 70000 by the end of the year 2002, with 73% of these living in the streets of Khartoum. Boys make up around 86% of those on the streets, and girls 14%. According to Sudanese Juvenile Law (1983), “Vagrant is the boy or girl under 18 years who is vulnerable to delinquency, homeless or unable to show the way to his/her resident caretaker, or unable to give sufficient information about himself/herself.” They are considered a vagrant if they spend the night on the street, abandon their parents/guardians, engage in begging, prostitution or other ‘immorality’, or if they associate with suspected criminals. According to the Temporal Decree of Public Control Law of Khartoum State 1996, street children are defined more concisely as ‘a person who has no apparent resident place or apparent work for gaining’. It is noteworthy that both legal definitions assume children to go onto the streets according to their own will, without any consideration of the causes that may push them to do so. Social definitions are slightly different, and recognise the distinction between children on the street (who return home at night) and children of the street (who struggle alone without family support). They are often referred to as ‘abandoned’ children. Violence, kidnapping, family separation or disability as well as drought, floods, famine and disease have all had a negative impact on Sudan’s children. Among others factors, civil wars and inequitable socio-economic structure are considered the main root causes of the street children phenomenon in Sudan.

The Government of Sudan (GOS) is famous for recruiting children as soldiers in its armed forces during the wars it waged against its own citizens. In August 2006 the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned the practice of recruiting child soldiers in Sudan in a report to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) implicating the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in child recruitment in southern Sudan, in Khartoum, and in child abduction and sexual violence in Darfur. His report said this continued despite peace deals in southern Sudan and the western Darfur region. The report also said sexual and other violence against children by army and militia groups persisted in southern and western Sudan. Mr Annan urged the leaders of Sudan’s Government of National Unity and the regional government of southern Sudan to end child recruitment. He added saying:” The current peace processes in Darfur and southern Sudan offer a real opportunity for the leaders of the Sudan to end the practice of recruitment and use of children once and for all." Furthermore, Mr Annan’s report stated that the National and Southern governments are directly accountable for violations by individuals under their command.

The children shown on the Sudanese television screen after 10th May 2008 were the victims of the wars kindled by the ruling genocidal National Congress Party (NCP) regime in Khartoum, the entity that deprived those children of their parents, economic and social rights and turned their lives upside down. Haphazardly dumping charges and passing fiery unsubstantiated judgements is reprehensible. It is incumbent upon the Waging Peace Agency to perfect its homework prior to hurriedly declaring unfounded allegations based on a pack of lies against JEM. 13 heads and leaders of all the refugee camps in eastern Chad made a strong statement in which they condemned the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the Waging Peace Organisation for the deplorable allegation that Sudanese refugees have been engaged in child trafficking and crimes of moral turpitude selling blood of their children to the armed movements in exchange for food and sustenance. Furthermore, they discredited what has been reported by the Waging Peace agency about child trafficking in camps for Sudanese refugees in Chad as totally groundless and added it has nothing to do with reality and has no existence except in the imagination of the government and delusions of some organizations with profane purpose
affiliated falsely to humanitarian work.

Analysts believe that Waging Peace has made colossal error in judgement and it was wrong. It does indeed need to prove its allegation or it owes JEM a written apology. Would Waging Peace Do That? That is a sixty-four dollar ($64) question awaits an answer.

Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman is the Deputy Chairman of the General Congress for Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). He can be reached at mahmoud.abaker@gmail.com.

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