AMISOM and Somali government to involve local leaders in fighting recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups
Nairobi, 10 December 2016 – The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) will engage parents and community leaders to combat radicalization and help end recruitment of child soldiers.
The parents and community leaders will also help AMISOM and FGS map out areas where children are vulnerable to abduction and recruitment into armed groups.
The mapping, the two parties observed, would help starve Al-Shabaab, Islamic State (IS) and clan militias of combatants and aid liberate those within their ranks.
The resolutions were part of a raft of measures agreed upon at a three-day workshop, held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, this week.
Mr Musa Gbow, the African Union Commission Child Protection Advisor, said preventing the enlisting of children and rescuing them from armed groups would significantly reduce the number of combatants and by extension the intensity of the war in Somalia.
“Armed groups such as Al-Shabaab have over the years replenished their ranks by abducting children. We need to prevent, minimize and arrest those who may attempt to abduct the children,” Gbow added.
He said that part of the strategy would be to involve teachers, community leaders and Muslim preachers in countering the militant groups’ ideology of radicalization.
“The war is about winning the hearts and minds of the locals and we cannot win it when the minds of the young people have been brainwashed, we must show them the right path,” observed the AMISOM official.
He noted that to achieve the objective, there was need for cooperation among government, community elders, religious leaders and AMISOM officials.
“The children are being used for suicide bombing missions and very dangerous operations which the adults are not willing to undertake. If we resolve to protect them and make them aware of the dangers of joining the armed groups, then we shall not only be protecting their rights but starving the armed groups of combatants”, said Gbow.
He added that treating those who have been rescued from armed groups humanely, would encourage others to surrender and be integrated into communities.
Mr. Adebayo Kareem, the AMISOM Acting Chief of Staff, said the workshop was a sign of AMISOM’s commitment in combating the problem of child soldiers.
The participants agreed there was need for socio-psychological support to children rescued from the armed groups in order to help them reintegrate in to the communities.
Africa Union Special Representative Francisco Madeira supported the move by both AMISOM and the Federal Government of Somalia to work together to fight the recruitment of child soldiers.
“The continued recruitment and use of child soldiers by certain elements is a contributing factor to the protracted nature of the conflict in Somalia. Children are fighting wars created by adults”, Madeira said.
He said key in the campaign would be to counter radicalization and extremist ideology, which young people fell for before joining the armed groups.
The seminar brought together representatives from AMISOM, the Federal Government of Somalia and Somali National Army and Police Force.
It was supported by the Romeo Declare Child Soldiers Initiative, the British Peace Support Team, the British Embassy in Mogadishu and the International Peace Training Centre.