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US Waives Child Soldier Penalties in 4 Nations

By AP / Kristen Gelineau

(WASHINGTON) — In a move criticized by human rights organizations, the Obama administration has decided to exempt Yemen and three other countries that use child soldiers from U.S. penalties under the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act.

In a memorandum to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama said he had determined that “it is in the national interest of the United States” to waive application of the law to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. He instructed Clinton to submit the decision to the Congress with a written justification for the move.(See pictures of child soldiers around the world.)

Obama’s memo, released by the White House on Monday, did not include the justification. Administration officials have said, however, that cutting off military aid to those four countries as required by the law would do more harm than good. And they have said that continuing close cooperation with them can be a more effective way of changing their practices.

Jo Becker, children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, said Obama had supported the legislation when he was in the Senate.

“This is a ground breaking law,” she said. “This is the first year it has taken effect and he’s undercutting it.”

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Southern Sudan to purge child soldiers from army

By Maggie Fick
Associated Press Writer / August 30, 2010

JUBA, Sudan—The government of Southern Sudan said Monday it will purge child soldiers from the ranks of its former rebel army by year’s end, a policy change that could see thousands of young troops pushed out of the military.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Army launched a new “Child Protection Department” intended to help the army fulfill an agreement it signed with the United Nations in November. The agreement commits the army to release all children in its ranks by the end of the year and to end the use of child soldiers across Southern Sudan.

The U.N. Children’s Fund estimates that about 900 children serve as soldiers in the south. The southern military did not say how many child soldiers it believes it has, but the chief of staff indicated it was several thousand.

Oil-rich Southern Sudan is widely expected to vote for independence from northern Sudan in a scheduled January referendum, an outcome likely to lead to the breakup of Africa’s largest country.

The 2005 peace accord that ended decades of war between Sudan’s north and south committed the armies to an extensive demobilization process. But because both armies are preparing for worst-case scenarios as the southern vote nears, analysts say neither side has an interest in reducing the size of their militaries.

Still, southern officials say they will completely purge the ranks of children. William Deng Deng, chairman of the south’s Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, said the army has “never wavered in its commitment to children,” recalling how children recruited into the guerrilla army during the civil war received schooling along with their military training.… Read the rest

Emmanuel Jal Breaks 661-Day Fast

The organization’s primary goal is providing education to former child soldiers and others in dire need of support in Sudan and Kenya.
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