Somalia: Somalia mulls swift actions to prevent use of children in armed conflicts

Somalia is seeking urgent actions to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers in armed conflicts in the Horn of Africa.

According to a joint statement issued in Mogadishu on Sunday after a five-day meeting of key representatives from the government and federal member states, recruitment and use of children is a key security concern and has the potential to undermine efforts aimed at bringing lasting peace to Somalia.

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)’s Child Protection Adviser Musa Gbow stressed the importance of coming up with a roadmap that will be translated into a policy document and implemented at both the federal and regional levels.

“Our aim is to have a smooth transitional exit strategy, but we cannot just leave vacuum. We have to ensure that the federal government and federal member states continue to work together especially with regards to dealing with the prevention of the recruitment and use of children as soldiers in the conflict in Somalia,” Gbow said.

Various international instruments across the globe criminalize the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.

Available statistics also show that 70 percent of the children in armed conflict in Somalia are recruited by Al-Shabaab terror group.

During the forum, organized by AMISOM, participants discussed how to prevent the recruitment of and use of children in armed conflicts.

The forum provided an avenue for various government departments including the security sector to interface alongside AMISOM military, in coming up with tangible solutions to the problem.

Deputy Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (DSRCC) Simon Mulongo said the AU mission is addressing the issue of use of child soldiers in armed conflicts as part of its transitional arrangements.

“That is as we transit from activities being managed and overseen by AMISOM, we would like to prepare the Somali people to manage these programs by themselves,” Mulongo said.

According to a UN Security Council Report on Children and Armed Conflict in Somalia published in January, 5,933 boys and 230 girls were recruited as child soldiers between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2016.

Statistics show an improvement between 2012 and 2014, but the figures sharply rose in 2016, when 1,092 children were used as child soldiers in the first six months.