OSRSG/201110-18 Press Release
New Somali Prime Minister pledges to work towards “action plan” to end recruitment and use of child soldiers
Nairobi, 3 November 2010 – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy met with the new Prime Minister Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed in Mogadishu on Tuesday. In a productive discussion, the Prime Minister committed his government to eradicating the practice of child soldiering in Somalia. Acknowledging that the use of children as soldiers is a terrible phenomenon, the Prime Minister agreed to designate a focal point, reporting directly to him, who would work with the United Nations to pave the way toward the signing of an action plan, an official agreement to secure and verify the release of child soldiers.
“The Prime Minister’s commitment to end the recruitment of child soldiers in Somalia is a welcome first step, as is his agreement to the process of putting together measures that will prevent children from being recruited to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG). The TFG, including its allied militias, has been on the “name and shame” list of the Secretary-General for recruitment and use of children for five consecutive years and is referred to as a persistent violator. We hope this commitment by the Prime Minister will eventually result in their de-listing,” said SRSG Coomaraswamy.
In a meeting with the AMISOM Force Commander Nathan Mugisha SRSG Coomaraswamy raised her concerns about killing and maiming of civilians, including children, by indiscriminate shelling, but was reassured that rules of engagement were in place and every measure will be taken to prevent any further deaths of civilians including children.
When asked about other parties to the conflict, SRSG Coomaraswamy said, “unfortunately, my Office has no access to Al Shabaab or Hizbul Islam which are listed by the Secretary-General for recruiting child soldiers. But we hope that they will abide by international humanitarian law and release all children within their ranks. We also urge states who have influence over all parties in the region to use their good offices to ensure that all parties in Somalia protect the rights of girls and boys.”
In Hargeisa on Tuesday evening, SRSG Coomaraswamy met with the President of “Somaliland”. She congratulated him on his recent election and the peaceful transfer of power, and the two discussed issues of mutual interest including gender-based violence, justice for children, internally displaced children as well as education for vulnerable girls and boys.
Today, in an IDP camp in Bossaso, the SRSG was able to speak to many women and children. Grateful to be out of the conflict zone in South Central Somalia, they were eager to discuss the problems of displacement. The IDP population must pay rent because the camps sit on private land. Many children are not in school due to a lack of facilities and inability to pay the required fees.
Insecurity in the camp is a major concern. One nine year old girl said, “My greatest fear, besides thieves, is that men will come and do violence to women and girls in the night.”
Many IDPs still carried bullets in their bodies. Some were raped during their flight to safety. Accessing health and education services is a struggle for the IDPs and other children in “Puntland”, where only 8% of the state budget funds social services.
Responding to reports of the association of children with piracy, the SRSG was granted access to Bossaso Central Prison and spoke with the juvenile detainees.
Children in Somalia are dependent on international assistance for essential services. Sadly, following a peak in 2008, the amount of humanitarian funding received for Somalia has continuously declined. SRSG Coomaraswamy reminded the donor community that, “Results are possible in Somalia despite extremely limited access. There is a humanitarian presence on the ground that can deliver much needed aid to these war-affected communities.”
SRSG Coomaraswamy always meets with UN child protection staff and local NGOs to get the most recent information on the ground. In all three cities she was able to hear directly from those who she calls, “my eyes and ears in the field.”
“In Somalia, girls and boys are still on the many front lines as they have been for twenty years and it’s only getting worse. Increasingly, it is children who are fighting the war. The actors may change, battlefields may shift, but it is always the children who suffer,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Coomaraswamy.
Photos are available on our Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/childrenandarmedconflict
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