Somalia and the African Union Mission (AMISOM) have called on national security forces to strive to protect children in combat zones as they fight al-Shabab militants in the Horn of Africa nation.
Hassan Ali Mohamed, the defence minister who closed a five-day training on human rights and child protection for 26 officers from the Somalia National Army (SNA) in Mogadishu reiterated the government’s commitment to ensuring the protection of children.
“Our message is loud and clear. Violations of human rights should end, especially recruitment and use of child soldiers,” Mohamed said, according to a statement released on Saturday evening by the AU mission.
“This is in line with the relevant United Nations Resolution relating to issues of child soldiers, as well as respect for human rights,” he added.
According to the minister, ending such violations is part of the Somali National Army’s goal to preserve human rights in times of war and peace.
“Children should not be recruited as soldiers, and this is our message,” he said and urged the focal persons to take personal initiative to gain more knowledge in human rights and child protection, and apply the knowledge acquired to carry out their duties.
The five-day training, organized by AMISOM in collaboration with the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (RDCSI) was aimed at enhancing Somali security forces’ compliance with the International Human Rights Law.
According to the AU mission, the recruitment and use of child soldiers as combatants in armed conflict by militant groups such as al-Shabab remains a key concern in Somalia.
AMISOM is currently implementing a conditions-based, gradual transfer of security responsibilities to the Somali security forces under the Somalia Transition Plan.
Under the plan, AMISOM is supporting the Somali security forces to build capacity to prevent recruitment and use of children as fighters.
Participants in the training, held in Mogadishu, included child protection focal persons drawn from SNA units across the country and officials from the Child Protection Unit in the defence ministry.
Francisco Madeira, head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said the training was crucial to AMISOM’s exit strategy.
“It is by no mistake that they selected you as child protection focal persons, critical to mainstreaming child protection across Somalia. Completion of this training marks an important milestone in the professionalization of the SNA,” Madeira said.
He said SNA should execute its obligations in compliance with the relevant international obligations under human rights and perform their duties.
During the training, participants resolved to ensure reporting of violations against children and coordinate with the Child Protection Unit in the ministry of defence to address these violations.