Children, Not Soldiers: Somalia Fact Sheet

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/69/926–S/2015/409) issued on 5 June 2015.

The security situation remained extremely volatile, particularly in south – central Somalia, leading to displacement of more than 80,000 persons. The reporting period witnessed a gradual build-up of joint operations by the Somalia National Army and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), driving Al-Shabaab out of key towns in southern and central regions.

A total of 1,870 violations against children were documented, affecting 1,482 boys and 250 girls, with 806 out of 893 incidents verified. While the numbers represent a substantial reduction compared with 2013, the decline is largely attributable to the reduced capacity and access to verify incidents.

The recruitment and use of 819 children (779 boys, 40 girls) by Al-Shabaab (437), national army and allied militia (197), Ahl Al-Sunna wal-Jama’a (109) and other armed elements (76) was documented. Of particular concern was the ongoing recruitment and use of children by clan militias. Al-Shabaab sustained a campaign of recruitment targeting children and youth in mosques and schools, for example, recruiting 82 children in mosques or during religious events. Reports were also received of five boys used by AMISOM in support functions.

The detention of children in Somalia remained a concern, with 286 children (277 boys, nine girls) detained by the national army and other security forces (229), Al-Shabaab (44) and other armed groups (4). Seven of the nine girls were kept in Al-Shabaab custody. Of the children detained by government security forces, many were arrested following house searches and security operations and most were released a few days after the arrest. Of concern is the situation of children held at the Serendi rehabilitation centre in Mogadishu, whom my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict met during her visit in August. The children have been deprived of their liberty, as they are not free to leave the centre. The Government must ensure that any child deprived of his or her liberty for alleged association with armed groups is treated primarily as a victim and handed over to child protection actors.

Some 340 incidents of killing and maiming were documented affecting 520 children (393 boys, 127 girls) perpetrated by the national army and allied militia (193), Al-Shabaab (96), and other armed elements (231). Children have been killed in crossfire, sometimes during joint national army/AMISOM operations and in suicide attacks. Targeted attacks against the national army, AMISOM and prominent Federal Government of Somalia officials also led to large numbers of civilian casualties, including children. Al-Shabaab carried out public executions, including of children, as punitive measures and to instil fear. One boy and one girl were executed on suspicion of being spies for the Federal Government or AMISOM. Seventeen children were reported killed and maimed during military operations by AMISOM.

The monitoring and reporting of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children remained a challenge, among other things, because of the victims’ fear of stigmatization. A total of 70 incidents affecting 76 girls were reportedly committed by the national army and allied militia (24), Al-Shabaab (19) and other armed groups (33). Girls in internally displaced persons camps were particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and forced marriage. At least 13 documented incidents of abduction resulted in rape and forced marriage. In one particularly tragic incident in April, a 14-year-old female internally displaced person was abducted, raped and then killed by unknown armed men.

Seventeen schools were subjected to attacks by Al-Shabaab (eight), the national army and allied militia (six), and unknown armed elements (three). One school was also severely damaged in shelling by AMISOM. Al-Shabaab continued to use schools for recruitment and disrupted learning for hundreds of children including by distributing jihadist booklets for teachers and conducting indoctrination lectures. Incidents targeting protected personnel were also documented such as the detention of two teachers by Al-Shabaab for declining to refer their students to religious classes. Four schools were used for military purposes by the national army (three), later vacated, and Al-Shabaab (one). It was also reported that AMISOM used a school for military purposes during a few days in December.

Four hospitals were attacked by unknown armed groups (3) and Al-Shabaab (1) and incidents affecting related-personnel were documented. In one incident, Al-Shabaab abducted a health worker to provide medical care to its wounded fighters. Other incidents included improvised explosive device attacks against two hospitals resulting in the deaths of two doctors and two boys.

A total of 133 children were abducted, by Al-Shabaab (97), the national army and allied militia (25), and unknown armed groups (11). More than half of the children abducted by Al-Shabaab were used to increase its numbers ahead of joint national army/AMISOM operations.

Fifteen incidents of denial of humanitarian access were reported, the majority by unknown armed groups, and 3 each by Al-Shabaab and the national army.

My Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict visited Somalia in August to assess the situation of children affected by conflict, engage with the Federal Government of Somalia on the implementation of the two action plans signed in 2012 to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children and advocate for the strengthening of the legal framework for the protection of children.

Coordination mechanisms between the United Nations, the Federal Government of Somalia, AMISOM and other partners were established to facilitate the implementation of the action plans. Significant steps were also taken with the signature of standard operating procedures for the handover of children separated from armed groups in February and the establishment of a child protection unit at the national army headquarters. Moreover, a mobile national army/United Nations team screened over 1,000 soldiers and the Barre Aden Shire “Hirale” militia that surrendered in anticipation of integration into the national army. No children were found during the screening exercises. The United Nations provided training on child protection to more than 8,000 national army soldiers, in collaboration with the European Union Training Mission in Somalia and AMISOM. In addition, following United Nations advocacy, the AMISOM Force Commander issued a directive to reinforce accountability and compliance with children’s rights during operations.

Following the listing of Ahl Al-Sunna wal-Jama’a for the recruitment and use of children, the United Nations initiated dialogue with the group and discussed steps towards the formulation of a commitment to halt and prevent continuation of the practice. The United Nations also supported the reintegration of 500 children (375 boys, 125 girls) through community-based programmes. Reintegration activities included provision of psychosocial assistance, “back-to-school” support programmes and vocational training.

In December, in a positive legislative development, the Federal Parliament adopted a law ratifying the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The law was signed by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on 20 January 2015. I welcome the progress made by the Federal Government of Somalia and I encourage it to sustain all its efforts to better protect children in Somalia, including by finalizing the ratification process of the Convention and to take steps to ratify its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Parties in Somalia

1.       Al Shabaaba,b
2.       Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah (ASWJ)a
3.       Somali National Armya,b,*

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.

*This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).