News / Africa

Ending Use of Child Soldiers in Somalia

A young boy leads the hard-line Islamist Al Shabab fighters as they conduct military exercise in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia (File Photo)
A young boy leads the hard-line Islamist Al Shabab fighters as they conduct military exercise in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia (File Photo)
Joe DeCapua

This week, Somali government officials agreed to begin taking steps to end the recruitment of child soldiers. The Transitional Federal Government, or TFG, and the al Shabab militant group, are cited by the United Nations for using child combatants.

The agreement followed a meeting Wednesday between TFG officials and Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict. She says the use of child soldiers in Somalia has been widespread.

“Well, it’s extensive. Every armed group in Somalia practically has child soldiers, except maybe the peacekeepers. The actual numbers I hesitate to say because we just can’t estimate,” she said.

She met with the Somali president, prime minister and minister of defense, who agreed to work closely with the U.N. on the issue.

“What we agreed on was…that there would be focal points in the government that will work on the issue of children in armed conflict. And that the TFG will enter into an action plan with the United Nations to release children that are in their ranks. And that they allow the U.N. to come and verify whether there are more children. And to also work with UNICEF on the reintegration of those children,” she said.

Al-Shabab

Coomaraswamy said it’s much more difficult to get al Shabab to stop using child soldiers.

“What we are trying to do in that case, of course, is to work though interlocutors. But also through the community level also to try to influence them. But I can’t say they’re having that much success,” she said.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and Armed Conflict
Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and Armed Conflict

She said al Shabab recruits on the community level by extorting, threatening or intimidating families to turn their children over to them. She says they also take them from schools or lure them through radio broadcasts.

The U.N. special representative also visited a camp in Mogadishu where al Shabab defectors or fighters who surrendered are held. Among them were 37 former child soldiers. Coomaraswamy described her visit to the camp as depressing.

“We met a young boy,” she said, “with a bullet still in his head. He was very young. He was about 11 at most or 12. And he had gone through full training, taken part in combat, shot in the leg. But finally he escaped and was taken by the TFG and put in Marino Camp.”

UNICEF, the U.N. children’s fund, has programs to help reintegrate former child soldiers back into society. These include psycho-social support and returning them to school. The International Labor Organization also provides skills and livelihood training.

South Sudan

Coomaraswamy said efforts are also underway to end the use of child soldiers in the world’s newest country, South Sudan.

“Well, in South Sudan we have an action plan with the SPLA. And I must say that the SPLA in Juba and around the capital I think is child (soldier) free. But the remote regional commanders still I think have child soldiers. But the U.N. has agreements to go into SPLA camps and to verify whether there are children. Then of course there are the sort of ethnic-based militias. That’s much more difficult. And I think there we still have to see how we can make headway,” she said.

While some NGOs estimate there are hundreds of thousands of child soldiers around the world, she said there’s no way to be sure.

“No, the number is not known now. Earlier numbers were estimated purely on the rolls in Africa in Liberia and Sierra Leone. But now, of course, we’re finding child soldiers in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in Iraq and some of the new wars. So, I don’t think we have an estimate. It would be very difficult to estimate,” she said.

Despite that, Coomaraswamy believes that with enough effort, the use of children soldiers can be brought to an end within 25 years.

The special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict says welcomed the TFG’s commitment to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid