Norway condemns kidnapping of schoolchildren in South Sudan

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‘I am shocked by the reports that at least 89 school boys have been kidnapped in South Sudan. The schoolboys must be released immediately and those responsible must be held accountable,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) fears that the number of children kidnapped may be much higher, and that some of the boys are just 12 or 13 years old. The kidnappings were carried out earlier this week out by an armed group near the northern city of Malakal in South Sudan. 

‘Children must feel safe when they attend school. It is a violation of international law to use children as soldiers. Both parties to the conflict have undertaken to stop using child soldiers,’ said Mr Brende. 

Thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes in the areas where the schoolboys were kidnapped. Altogether, almost two million people have been driven from their homes in South Sudan, including 750.000 children, because of the armed conflict that broke out in December 2013. Some 400.000 children no longer have the opportunity to attend school, and according to Unicef, 12.000 children are now being used as child soldiers. Almost 6.5 million people in South Sudan are affected by the humanitarian crisis caused by the violent political power struggle in the country. 

‘I urge the parties to the conflict in South Sudan to stop the fighting, ensure that civilians are protected, seek a political solution to the conflict, and find political solutions for the country’s future,’ said Mr Brende. 

On Monday, the parties will once again meet in Addis Ababa for what the regional organisation Igad has said will be the last round of peace negotiations aimed at establishing a national unity government. Norway is one of the Troika countries, and is supporting the peace talks together with the US and the UK.