Children, Not Soldiers: Somalia Fact Sheet

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (A/70/836–S/2016/360) issued on 20 April 2016.

The period saw increased attacks by Al-Shabaab on the Somali security forces, government officials and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), in addition to inter-clan clashes. In July, AMISOM and the Somali National Army resumed their offensive against Al-Shabaab. The national forces of Ethiopia and Kenya also conducted military operations. The situation resulted in a spike in the number of grave violations against children, with an increase of almost 50 per cent compared with 2014.

The recruitment and use of 903 children was documented, with 60 per cent of the cases (555) attributed to Al-Shabaab. In December, around 150 children were reportedly abducted for recruitment purposes from madrasas by Al-Shabaab in the Bay region. Of those cases, 26 (all boys) were verified by the United Nations. The Somali National Army also recruited a high number of children (218), who were used for various tasks, such as manning checkpoints. Recruitment was also attributed to clan militias (68), Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a (40) and Galmudug forces (17).

An increase in the detention of children for association with armed groups was documented, with 365 cases. The vast majority of children were detained by the Somali National Army (346), but also by Jubaland forces (11), Galmudug forces (6) and Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a (2). Twenty-four boys were detained by AMISOM and later released. In a positive development, following engagement and advocacy by the United Nations, 79 children formerly associated with Al-Shabaab who had been held in rehabilitation centres were handed over to United Nations-supported non governmental organization partners. At the time of writing (March 2016), however, dozens of children were reported to have taken part in an Al-Shabaab attack on Puntland and Galmudug and had been detained by the regional authorities.

A total of 474 incidents of killing and maiming were documented, affecting 753 children, and attributed to unknown armed elements (259), the Somali National Army (144), Al-Shabaab (138), clan militias (123), AMISOM (60), Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a (3) and other regional forces (8). Most incidents were related to indiscriminate gunfire or improvised explosive devices. The United Nations also documented six cases of children being executed by Al-Shabaab. Most incidents attributed to AMISOM were caused by indiscriminate shooting in response to attacks by Al-Shabaab and during Operation Juba Corridor. For example, eight children were killed in two incidents in Marka district, Shabelle Hoose region, in July. In addition, 18 children were killed on 21 July in an air strike on a madrasa in Baardheere district.

The United Nations documented 164 incidents of sexual violence affecting 174 children, with the majority committed by clan militias (56), unknown armed elements (54), the Somali National Army (43), Al-Shabaab (15) and Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a and AMISOM (2 each). Eighteen cases of forced marriage by parties to conflict were also documented.

Attacks on 24 schools and five hospitals were documented. Al-Shabaab committed 15 attacks on schools, the Somali National Army and allied militias were responsible for 4 attacks, clan militias and unknown armed elements were responsible for 2 each and unidentified air forces were responsible for 1 attack, as mentioned above. Attacks on hospitals were committed by AMISOM (two) and Al-Shabaab, clan militias and the Somali National Army (one each). The attacks by AMISOM involved the looting of medicines. In addition, two schools were used by the Somali National Army, including one in the Shabelle Hoose region, which was vacated following engagement by the United Nations.

A pattern of abduction was observed. Numbers spiked compared with 2014. A total of 458 boys and 65 girls were abducted, with nearly 95 per cent by Al-Shabaab (492), but also by clan militias (14). Abductions were often used as a tactic for recruitment, but also for the purpose of sexual violence, including forced marriage. For example, parents reported the abduction of 45 children by Al-Shabaab from a madrasa in the Juba Dhexe region in August.

Twelve incidents of denial of humanitarian access by clan militias (seven), the Somali National Army (three), Al-Shabaab and unknown armed elements were reported. Humanitarian access to children remained extremely challenging and United Nations staff were targeted. Seventeen humanitarian staff were killed in 2015, including four UNICEF staff in a suicide attack by Al-Shabaab.

Regarding separation, UNICEF supported the reintegration of 749 children through community-based programmes. The United Nations also provided technical support to the Child Protection Unit of the Somali National Army. Joint screening exercises were conducted and 36 children were separated from militias in Kismaayo, as part of a vetting process before their integration into the Somali National Army. Efforts to provide the separated children with assistance were continuing at the time of writing (March 2016). In another positive development, the Government ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 1 October. I am, however, particularly concerned by the continuing recruitment and use of children and high numbers of Somali National Army child detainees. I call upon the Government to immediately separate all children from the Somali National Army in adherence with the action plan signed with the United Nations in 2012 and to comply with international juvenile justice standards regarding detention.

The United Nations has engaged with AMISOM on the alarming numbers of killing and maiming of children committed by its forces. I urge the African Union and the troop-contributing countries to take all measures necessary to prevent violations and ensure the protection of children, as well as ensure accountability by undertaking prompt and independent investigations.

Parties in Somalia

1.  Al-Shabaaba,b,e
2.  Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’a (ASWJ)a
3.  Somali National Armya,b,• This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).

* The parties underlined have been in the annexes for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators.

(a) Parties that recruit and use children.
(b) Parties that kill and maim children.
(e) Parties that abduct children.


annual report summary

Click to read a summary of the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict