UNICEF: Children in Sudan ‘Detained, Recruited to Join the Fighting, and Sexually Abused’

Locals set tyres on fire and block a sidestreet leading to their neighbourhood in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to stop military vehicles from driving through the area on June 4, 2019. - Sudan's protest movement called the same day for fresh rallies and rejected the military rulers' election plan after …
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JOHN HAYWARD

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Tuesday that “at least 19 children have reportedly been killed in Sudan and another 49 injured since a military backlash against protesters began earlier this month.”

“We have received information that children are being detained, recruited to join the fighting and sexually abused. Schools, hospitals and health centers have been targeted, looted and destroyed. Health workers have been attacked simply for doing their job,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Fore noted that water, food, and medicine have grown scarce during the unrest following the ouster of longtime President Omar al-Bashir, and they were not plentiful to begin with.

“Children throughout Sudan are already bearing the brunt of decades of conflict, chronic underdevelopment, and poor governance. The current violence is making a critical situation even worse,” she said.

Fore called for an end to political violence in Sudan and warned that “any attack on children, schools, or hospitals is a grave violation of children’s rights.”

Although her statement suggested both the ruling military junta and its opposition have been guilty of abuses, Fore called on the junta to immediately “resume negotiations over the transfer of power to a civilian-led transitional authority,” which is a key demand of demonstrators.

“The children of Sudan want peace. The international community needs to take a firm stand in support of their aspirations,” the UNICEF director concluded.

An Ethiopian mediator dispatched to Sudan said on Tuesday the military has agreed to release political prisoners and is willing to resume negotiations once the opposition halts its general strikes. Opposition leaders responded by calling for strikers to return to work on Wednesday.

A potential sticking point is that leaders of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) have indicated a willingness to “share power” with civilians rather than accepting a fully civilian transitional government, and they want the head of a hybrid military-civilian ruling council to be from the military.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reportedly proposed a 15-member ruling council that would include eight civilians and seven military officials during his visit to Sudan. TMC spokesmen have suggested the military might allow general elections in early 2020, but opposition leaders doubt the elections would be honest and open to all candidates.

The Trump administration revealed on Tuesday that Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy is en route to Sudan to get negotiations back on track. Nagy will also visit Ethiopia to coordinate with Prime Minister Ahmed on the Sudan crisis.

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