Somali gov't and AMISOM to combat use of child soldiers

By Cecilia Okoth

Speaking at the training, the British Ambassador to Somalia David Concar, said there is need to combat the vice so as to stifle the disturbing practice in the country, of turning children into combatants.

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The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are strengthening their capacities to curb the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Somalia.

Last week, 24 officials from the FGS and AMISOM concluded a 10 day Training of Trainers (TOT) course in Nairobi supported by the British Embassy Mogadishu in conjunction with British Peace Support Team-East Africa (BPST-EA) and the Dallaire Initiative (DI).

The officials were equipped with the skills and expertise needed to plan, organize and train others on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Somalia, a country with disturbing statistics on the vice, which activists say denies children their right to be raised as children and to achieve their potential.

Speaking at the training, the British Ambassador to Somalia David Concar, said there is need to combat the vice so as to stifle the disturbing practice in the country, of turning children into combatants.

"The goal of the course is to train trainers, individuals who can teach their colleagues back in Somalia how to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Turning children into combatants is a gross violation of their human rights and the UK is committed to continuing to support the Somali Government and AMISOM in ensuring this practice is stamped out," Concar said.

The recruitment and use of child soldiers in armed conflict remains a major security challenge and a human rights concern.

Somalia has gone through a prolonged war lasting over two decades which has affected Somali children in numerous ways.

According to a January 2017 United Nations Security Council Report on Children and Armed Conflict in Somalia, a total of 5,933 boys and 230 girls were recruited as child soldiers between April and July, 2016.

Statistics showed an improvement between 2012 and 2014, but the figures rose sharply in the first half of 2016, with 1,092 children used as child soldiers. Available statistics also show that 70% of the children in armed conflict in Somalia are recruited by Al-Shabaab.

The AU Deputy Special Representative for Somalia Lydia Wanyoto on her part said the problem transcends Somalia. "It is not just about Somali children. It is about humanity,an African child given a chance to grow up as a child to fulfil their rightful potential in life," Wanyoto noted.

Col. Richard Leakey, the Commandant at BPST-EA said, "In the field, you will become key advocates to promote children's rights. The reason for these are two fold, not only do you bear a heavy, moral responsibility to protect the innocent as AU peacekeepers, but also by breaking the cycle of conflict that continues due to recruitment and use of child soldiers, you will directly contribute to the mission's success."

Darin Reeves, the Training Director at Dallaire Initiative added: "We support and underscore our belief that the security sector actors have a particularly important role to play in the protection of children because they are frequently the first point of contact not only with child soldiers but with all children in the operation areas.

The TOT course comes hardly three months after a similar workshop was conducted in Nairobi for 30 participants from the FGS and AMISOM.