Somalia has signed a roadmap detailing measures and practical actions to prevent violations against children, release children associated with armed forces, and reintegrate them into communities.
The deal which was witnessed by visiting UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, saw Mogadishu recommit to ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
This comes as the recruitment and use of child soldiers as combatants in armed conflict by terrorist groups such as al-Shabab remains a key concern in Somalia.
“The whole United Nations body and the civil society of good faith will support this plan so that across Somalia in all regions, all law enforcement officials, all members of any armed forces will be the first to protect children from violations,” Gamba said in a statement issued by the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) on Wednesday evening.
She said the roadmap is in line with action plans signed by Somalia and the UN in 2012 to protect children from recruitment and use by the army.
“We will support the possibility of vetting, of screening, of capacity building and of ensuring that children that are captured, or that escape, or children that are in any way released, will also receive the rehabilitation and reintegration needs that they deserve,” Gamba added.
According to the UN Report on Children and Armed Conflict, released in June, armed groups forcefully recruited and used in conflict 2,228 boys and 72 girls in 2018 in Somalia.
Hassan Ali Mohamed, minister of defense emphasized the government’s commitment to ending children’s rights violations, including forceful recruitment.
“The government does not accept the recruitment of under 18 years old. Although there are other elements like al-Shabab and Daesh that are using children under 18 years old. We thank the United Nations Security Council, as well as the UN Secretary-General who has assisted us through the Peace Building Fund,” said Mohamed.
Gamba also visited Baidoa where she announced the launch of a 2 million U.S. dollar Peace Building Fund project supporting the prevention of child recruitment and reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and groups.