World
Child soldiers battle in worsening South Sudan war
Publish Date: Apr 17, 2014
Child soldiers battle in worsening South Sudan war
A telling global expose of children who have become soldiers Photo/www.electricpictures.com.au
  • mail
  • img
newvision

NASIR – Like many 13 year-olds, Gach Chuol is timid, shyly looking down at the ground as he speaks to a stranger.
But he is also joining South Sudan’s war to avenge the death of his parents, and brandishes an AK-47 assault rifle as he recalls why he traded his school books for arms.

“I just want to fight because of what they have done to my parents,” said Chuol, speaking at a rally organised by the White Army, a militia that took up arms again to fight government troops in South Sudan’s four month-old civil war

Brutal fighting has pitted President Salva Kiir’s forces against those loosely allied with rebel chief Riek Machar, sacked as vice president in 2013.

The conflict has spread from the capital Juba to oil-rich states, with the rebels this week celebrating the recapture of the key town of Bentiu in a renewed rebel offensive they claim will seize crucial oil fields.


But it has also taken on an ethnic dimension, pitting Kiir’s Dinka tribe against militia forces from Machar’s Nuer people, and the scale of the fighting has led aid workers to warn of possible famine.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Wednesaday that “without immediate action, up to a million people could face famine in a matter of months”.

However teenagers like 15-year-old Matt Thor, whose father was killed shortly after fighting broke out on December 15, are consumed by the desire fpr retribution

“I want to go and kill,” he said, holding a gun too big for his small frame. “I want to go to the place of war, because I want to fight with Dinka.”

Dressed in civilian clothing and posing with rifles and machine guns grabbed from those they’ve killed, the White Army is loosely tied to Machar’s army, but follow their own informal command structures.

They are named after the white ash the fighters smear over their bodies, both as fearsome war paint and to ward off the mosquitoes that infest the vast roadless swamplands and grasslands they control.

For them, the war appears an ethnic not political struggle, a fight for revenge that promises to perpetuate a conflict in which thousands have already been killed and forced a million people to flee.

- No recruit too young -

Many pay no heed to dragging peace talks in Ethiopia, saying they will continue fighting until Kiir is out of power.

“If it means the people fight until the last man falls, then they will do that,” said Koang Monying, a White Army commander in the former mission-station of Nasir in oil-rich Upper Nile State.

Monying insisted he was not actively recruiting children, but said there is no bar to membership for those that want to join.

“Some of these young boys are very bitter because they lost some of their relatives,” he said, as scores of soldiers sang war songs, with the crackle of rifle fire as they shot in the air. “They decided to take up arms to carry out revenge.”

Machar, speaking to AFP from his rebel hideout in Upper Nile, dodges the issue of his relationship with the White Army, claiming not to support child soldiers but admitting the force — accused of massacre and rape — are a “helping hand”.

“We don’t deny them, they are part of us, we fight alongside each other against the government forces, but we tell them what should not be done in warfare,” Machar said.

White Army members say they are not fighting for Machar, whose political ambitions are far removed from their traditional cattle-herding lives.

“We are not fighting because of him, we are fighting because of what happened in Juba… it is revenge,” said gun-toting fighter Dama Gatech, referring to massacres that took place when fighting first broke out.

But both the White Army and Machar’s more regular forces — defected soldiers from the government’s army — have scant resources, relying on stolen supplies.

“We were forced to fight, that’s why now we don’t have resources,” said Garthoth Gatkuoth, rebel commander for Upper Nile, dressed in military fatigues and running shoes.

But dozens of White Army fighters still set off for the frontline each day, commanders say.

Nhial Lual, 35, is preparing to go to the oil fields as soon his gunshot wound from a previous battle heals, saying he has no qualms about killing his fellow countrymen.

“They are not my brothers,” Lual said. “Regardless of how long it takes, even if it takes 10 years, I will defeat them.”

Teenager Chuol said he wants to go back to school if the war ends, but for now will head to the frontline.

“I am not afraid,” the slight boy said.

(AFP)

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Ukraine says won
Ukraine''s military said Sunday it would not pull back its troops from the frontline until all sides abide by a ceasefire under the terms of a new peace plan....
Two Iranians held in Kenya amid terror alert
AUTHORITIES in Kenya say they have arrested two men believed to be Iranian nationals transiting through the East African nation on fake passports...
Queen urges unity after Scotland votes
Queen Elizabeth II has called for "mutual respect" among Scots following a divisive campaign in a referendum that saw Scotland reject independence from the UK....
France begins strikes in Iraq as anti-jihadist drive widens
France carried out its first air strike against the Islamic State group in Iraq Friday, boosting US-led efforts to unite the world against the growing threat posed by the jihadists....
Obama welcomes Scotland
US President Barack Obama congratulated Scotland Friday on its "full and energetic exercise of democracy," as he welcomed the result of its historic referendum rejecting independence from the United Kingdom....
Sierra Leone streets deserted as shutdown begins
Sierra Leone's normally chaotic capital was transformed on Friday as residents were confined to their homes for the start of a three-day lockdown aimed at halting the deadly Ebola epidemic....
Should bride price be made optional?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter