Jonglei State Information Minister John Samuel Manyuon told VOA's South Sudan in Focus that 88 abductees were rescued after being taken by militiamen. This follows months of intercommunal fighting between gunmen in Jonglei and neighboring Greater Pibor.
"In our first phase, we recovered 68 and we handed them over, so after that we continued with our search. We have recovered 20 [more children] and we have handed them over today to the government of Greater Pibor Administrative Area through UNICEF," Manyuon told VOA Tuesday.
UNICEF’s emergency specialist in South Sudan, Emma Tuck, condemned the abductions, rape, sexual violence and "gross deprivations" inflicted in recent attacks.
Tuck said there is no justification for the abuse of children.
"The abduction of children has severe consequences on the physical and psychological wellbeing of children, their families and their communities with almost certain long term consequences," Tuck told VOA.
Tuck commended local authorities in Greater Pibor and Jonglei for rescuing the abductees. She said UNICEF will work with the government of South Sudan and other aid agencies to ensure the former abductees are supported.
"The work of these activists together is ensuring rapid family tracing and reunification processes are initiated for the affected families. This is the very first step to what is likely to be a very long journey of reintegration and healing," Tuck said.
Manyuon said state authorities will search villages in Jonglei for other women and children abducted by militiamen.
"We have directed the county commissioners sit down with the chiefs, the youth leaders and make sure every child or women that was abducted there is handed to the authority in the Greater Pibor," Manyuon said.
Tuck called on all parties in South Sudan to adhere to the conventions on the Rights of the Child and provide protection during armed conflict.