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Sudan wants children recruited by Riyadh to fight in Yemen returned home

Up to 14,000 Sudanese militiamen were fighting in Yemen since March 2015 [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 September, 2019

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After four and a half years of war in Yemen, Sudanese officials call on the transitional government to bring Sudanese troops home from Yemen, including child soldiers and mercenaries.
Sudanese opposition figures have called on their country's transitional government to bring back Sudanese soldiers fighting for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, including child soldiers and mercenaries, according to a report on Tuesday.

Spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, El Rashid Saeed urged the country's new government to work towards ending the war in Yemen and bring Sudanese troops back home.

"We do not want the war to continue in Yemen," said Saeed in a press conference. "We want the talks to go on according to the plan prepared by the United Nations.

"I think Sudan can play a role in this regard through giving an ultimatum to its allies in the Arab coalition, for the sake of the peaceful solution that will guarantee the withdrawal of our forces without harming the relations with other countries."

At any time in the past four and a half years, as many as 14,000 Sudanese militiamen were fighting in Yemen with local militia aligned with the Saudis, according to an Al Jazeera report. Many of these, the report adds, were children and mercenaries.

There are "between 8,000 and 14,000 Sudanese paramilitary forces are fighting in Yemen", Noha Aboueldahab, from Brookings Doha Centre, told Al Jazeera.

"Sudanese mercenaries, many of them children from Darfur, have been lured into fighting on the ground in Yemen in exchange for financial compensation." 

The decision to join the Saudi-led war against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen was made by former dictator Omar al-Bashir, whose current trial revealed he received millions in illicit cash funds from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Bashir was ousted by the military in April following mass demonstrations demanding an end to his decades-old rule.

While he sent thousands of Sudanese troops to fight in Yemen, recent reports revealed that the Saudis also recruited thousands more mercenaries as well as child soldiers. 

Al Jazeera’s Tuesday report includes collected evidence on Saudi Arabia's trafficking of child soldiers to Yemen.

"I have never used a weapon… not a gun or a rifle," a child soldier told the broadcaster in an interview.

"I came because they told us we will be working in a kitchen and making 3,000 Saudi Riyals."

In December, The New York Times reported that Riyadh offered impoverished Sudanese families up to $10,000 to send their children to fight in Yemen.

"Families know that the only way their lives will change is if their sons join the war and bring them back money," the New York Times quoted one Sudanese child soldier as saying.

The report said that children made up at least 20 percent - and sometimes 40 percent - of the Sudanese battalion in Yemen.

Many had been brought in from the Darfur region of the west of Sudan, where some 300,000 people were killed and 1.2 million displaced during years of conflict.

Saudi Arabia denied the reports earlier this year.

It is estimated that hundreds of Sudanese have been killed in fighting in Yemen.

The intervention by the Saudi-led coalition, which includes Riyadh's partner the UAE, began in March 2015. Led by the Saudi crown prince, the intervention claims to be fighting to rescue Yemen from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

It has killed some 85,000 children, according to rights groups, and pushed as many as 12 million people to brink of famine. The UN has called the war in Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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