More than 200 child soldiers freed in South Sudan

Freed child soldiers wait in a line for their registration during a release ceremony in Yambio, South Sudan.

Story highlights

  • "Reintegration is the most difficult part of the release process," officials say
  • 19,000 children serving in the ranks of armed forces and groups in South Sudan

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)More than 200 child soldiers have been freed in South Sudan, according to UNICEF.

One hundred and twelve boys and 95 girls, some as young as 14, were freed at a special 'laying down of arms ceremony' organized by UNICEF Tuesday in the town of Yambio, in the south west of the country.
    The UN agency said it hoped to release around 1,000 more child soldiers in coming months and has freed more than 500 child soldiers so far this year.
      Thousands of children have been forced to join the military and other armed groups in South Sudan since the oil-rich country became engulfed in civil war in 2013.
        Around 19,000 children are serving in the ranks of armed forces and groups in the country, according to figures released by the organization.

        Abducted to fight

          One of the boys, George, 17, freed at an earlier ceremony in February told UNICEF he was abducted by an armed group in 2015.
          The group forced him to steal, rape women and girls, and on occasion he was ordered to kill, the UN agency said.
          "I did not want to do any of these things, but if I didn't I was scared they would kill me," he told UNICEF.
          "No child should be made to carry guns or weapon," UNICEF Representative in South Sudan Mahimbo Mdoe told CNN.
          Mdoe said those released will be reunited with their families, given psychosocial support along with the opportunity to go to school.