Somalia has no national government and as a result has many serious issues affecting children. In 1999, UNICEF estimated that 42 percent of Somali children between 5 and 14 worked. Children can be found working in herding, agriculture, and domestic labor. Many children have been forcibly conscripted into armies between the ages of 11 and 15.

Ending the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers

By Katarzyna Rybarczyk

Katarzyna Rybarczyk

Around the world children as young as ten years old fight in armed conflicts. According to the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1999, recruiting children as soldiers is one of the worst forms of child labour. Despite the practice representing a horrendous violation of their fundamental rights, however, currently, more than 300,000 children are members of armed groups and forces.

After being recruited by abduction or coercion, children are terrorised into obedience and deployed in direct combat, or assigned support and logistical roles. The recruitment of children under eighteen is forbidden by international law, but regardless the crime thrives in several regions of the world ravaged by war.

The UN’s Children and armed conflict report, released in June 2019, identified twenty countries where cases of child recruitment as soldiers have been verified. The report named the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen as the states where the problem is the most serious. Amongst them, the highest number of conscripted children could be observed in Somalia with 2,300 child soldiers, followed by Nigeria with 1,947 of them.

Methods of Recruitment

In countries where law enforcement is poor and the political situation unstable, children are vulnerable to forced recruitment. The majority of child soldiers is recruited by non-state extremist groups, which deceive the youth by showing them false images of prosperity and happiness within the organisations’ ranks. These groups specifically target and indoctrinate children because they are easy to manipulate and control.

In societies where children are being recruited as soldiers, they and their families often live in poverty. Lured by the promises of good salaries in militant groups, children volunteer to join to help their loved ones. On top of that, tired of living in conflict zones, children sometimes think that joining armed groups will provide them with shelter, protection and safety. Often, they become child soldiers to escape maltreatment at home or abuses by state’s forces.

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Kenya’s Somali Refugees: Overcoming Cultural Obstacles to Girls’ Education in Dadaab

11 April 2012 [from the AllAfrica Web site]

Dadaab — A mix of cultural practices, such as early and forced marriage, as well as child labour, are depriving girls of education in the Dadaab refugee complex in eastern Kenya.

Out of Dadaab’s estimated population of 463,000 mainly Somali refugees, more than half are children under 18; of these about 38 percent attend school. The proportion of girls in the camps’ primary and secondary schools is 38 and 27 percent, respectively, according to the UN Refugee Agency. A third of girls aged between 5 and 13 in Dabaab go to school; for those aged 14 to 17, only one in 20 are enrolled.

Hawa Ahmed, who arrived in Dadaab about seven months ago with her six children, told IRIN that only her sons attend school.

Her two daughters stay at home cooking, washing utensils and fetching water. “[These are] already enough lessons as they learn how to keep a family,” said Hawa as she plaited her daughter’s hair.

While boys are generally encouraged to attend school, barriers to girls’ education remain. A local saying among Somalis in Dadaab, for example, is ‘Gabar ama gunti rageed ama god hakaga jirto’ (a girl should either be married or in the grave).

Halima, 19, was married off to an older man in 2011 forcing her to drop out of high school at Dadaab’s Ifo camp. The now divorced single mother of one, said: “I am very disappointed. My life is almost destroyed. I can no longer go back to school because I have to take care of my child; I [have] lost my pride.”

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The Terrorized Lives of Somali Child Soldiers

As the rattle of gunfire echoed loudly outside, Mohamed Abdi sat in the corner of a Mogadishu restaurant and wondered aloud how much longer he could survive in one of the world’s most dangerous capitals. “Mogadishu is full of miseries, sometimes you fall into traps and can be abducted by either government forces or insurgents, to fight for their cause.”

The 15-year-old’s father died two years ago and since then life in Somalia has been a daily struggle to support his mother and two brothers who live in a nearby refugee camp. Unlike thousands of his countrymen who have been displaced because of fighting between government forces and Al Shabaab -a militant Islamist group linked to Al Qaeda- Abdi is fortunate in that he recently found work as a waiter. However, it was not so long ago that the youth was fighting in urban warfare.

As Somalia’s civil conflict continues unabated, child soldiering is an issue of growing concern. In a report last month Amnesty International (AI) detailed cases of children as young as nine years being made to take fight in war. The report – In The Line of

Fire: Somalia’s Children Under Attack – exposed the full impact of the on-going conflict on children and said that both Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and Al Shabaab were guilty of gross human rights violations.

“Somalia is not only a humanitarian crisis: it is a human rights crisis and a children’s crisis,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa. “As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time: you can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by Al-Shabaab because you are caught listening to music or ‘wearing the wrong clothes’, be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents or even die because you don’t have access to adequate medical care.”… Read the rest

From playground to battleground: children on the frontline in Somalia

from The Guardian, reporter Mohamad Shil

As the rattle of gunfire becomes louder, Mohamed Abdi sits in the corner of a Mogadishu restaurant wondering how much longer he can survive in one of the world’s most dangerous capital cities. “Mogadishu is full of miseries. Sometimes you fall into traps and can be abducted by either government forces or insurgents, to fight for their cause,” says the 15-year-old.

Thousands have been displaced because of fighting between government forces and al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group linked to al-Qaida. Abdi is fortunate in that he recently found work as a waiter, but not so long ago he was involved in urban warfare.

As Somalia‘s civil conflict continues, the use of child soldiers is causing growing concern. In a report last month, Amnesty International detailed cases of children as young as nine being forced into combat. The report – In the line of fire: Somalia’s children under attack – exposes the ongoing conflict’s impact on children, arguing that both Somalia’s transitional federal government and al-Shabaab are guilty of gross human rights violations.

“As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time,” says Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa. “You can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by al-Shabaab because you are caught listening to music or wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes, be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents, or even die because you don’t have access to adequate medical care.”

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