Children in Sudan are bearing the brunt of the recent deadly strikes in the country, as at least 19 have reportedly been killed and another 49 injured, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF said.
“We have received information that children are being detained, recruited to join the fighting and sexually abused”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
Security forces in Sudan attacked a protest camp in the country’s capital, Khartoum last week. The attack on the pro-democracy protest at the camp has been described as the worst violence since the overthrow of the president, Omar al-Bashir in April and been condemned by many, including the European Union and the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a group which is close to the protesters.
The backlash followed a halt in talks between protesters and the ruling Transitional Military Council over a timetable for civilian rule. Footage of the recent crackdown showed people fleeing through the streets amidst gunfire and ammunition while medics say that scores of people have been injured. Opposition groups claim that at least 108 people have been killed and more than 500 wounded.
Media reports also allege multiple cases of rape against demonstrators, many involving the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force that was heavily armed by the former president, al-Bashir. According to UNICEF, schools, hospitals, and health centres have been looted and destroyed while health workers are also attacked for doing their job.
“Many parents are too scared to let their children leave the house, fearful of violence, harassment and lawlessness”, said Fore.
She added that water, food, and medicine shortages in the country are putting the health and wellbeing of children at risk.
“We are providing millions of children, including those who have been displaced or are refugees, with vaccines, safe water, treatment for severe acute malnutrition and psychosocial support”, said Fore.
“But the violence must stop”, she added.
“Any attack on children, schools or hospitals is a grave violation of children’s rights,” she said, adding that the parties involved in the disturbances should return to the negotiation table and solve the issues related to the transfer of power to a civilian-led transitional authority.
“The children of Sudan want peace.”
“The international community needs to take a firm stand in support of their aspirations.”
The leaders of Sudan’s protest movement, who want a civilian government to take over the running of the country, recently said they were stopping all contact with the military and called a general strike. Negotiations have been held for weeks over who should govern a transitional period after Bashir’s overthrow, but the talks have not yielded positive results.
Last Monday’s crackdown sparked unrest around Khartoum, as hundreds of protesters blocked roads with stones while burning tyres in Omdurman, the twin city neighbouring the Sudanese capital, according to a report by The Guardian.
In response, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the group that launched nationwide protests in December, asked Sudanese people to take part in “total civil disobedience” to topple the military council and to protest on the streets.
Days after the military strike, the African Union (AU) suspended Sudan’s membership “with immediate effect.”
Meanwhile, protest and military leaders in Sudan, on Tuesday, June 11, agreed to resume talks on restoring a civilian administration soon. An opposition alliance also agreed to suspend its campaign of civil disobedience and widespread strikes, reported the BBC.
Reports of the return to talks come on the back of the intervention of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who met both sides recently to try and find a solution to the misunderstandings.