MOGADISHU, Somalia, –The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have strengthened their capacities to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Somalia, thanks to a training initiative supported by the British Embassy Mogadishu in conjunction with British Peace Support Team- East Africa (BPST-EA) and the Dallaire Initiative (DI).
A 10-day Training of Trainers (TOT) course in Nairobi equipped 24 participants from the FGS and AMISOM with the skills and expertise needed to plan, organise and train others on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Somalia.
The recruitment and use of child soldiers in armed conflict remains a major security challenge and a human rights issue. Somalia has gone through a prolonged war lasting over two decades which has affected Somali children in numerous ways.
British Ambassador to Somalia David Concar said: 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.
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.
The AU Deputy Special Representative for Somalia Hon. Lydia Wanyoto on her part said: It’s not just about Somali children. It’s about humanity. It’s about an African child given a chance to grow up as a child to fulfil their rightful potential in life.
Darin Reeves, the Training Director at Dallaire Initiative added that: 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.
According to the United Nations Security Council Report on Children and Armed Conflict in Somalia, published in January 2017, a total of 5,933 boys and 230 girls were recruited as child soldiers between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2016.
Statistics showed an improvement between 2012 and 2014, but the figures rose sharply in the first half of 2016, when 1,092 children were used as child soldiers. Available statistics also show that 70% of the children in armed conflict in Somalia are recruited by Al-Shabaab.
The TOT course builds on a three day Somalia-specific writing workshop organised by the same group on ‘Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers during Armed Conflict’ held in Nairobi from 6 – 8 December 2016 for 30 participants from the FGS and AMISOM