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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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Police Arrest Ex-Maoist Child Soldiers in Nepal

AFP

KATHMANDU – At least 40 former Maoist child soldiers, freed last year from camps, were detained Monday during a protest to demand better training to help them reintegrate into civilian life, police said.

They were among more than 4,000 minors who had served in the Maoist army during Nepal’s decade-long civil war and were discharged from UN-supervised camps last year after officials discovered they had been underage combatants.

“We detained the young people because they were blocking vehicles in public places. Around 100 protesters had gathered,” Kathmandu police chief Kedar Rijal told AFP.

Under the discharge scheme, the former child soldiers were supposed to undergo a government training program funded by the United Nations.

The program aimed to provide the young people with a choice of formal schooling, vocational training in such areas as tailoring, education to become health workers and help in setting up small businesses.

But the protesters said the training had left them “only half-skilled”.

“We can’t re-integrate into the society because we still face a stigma. We’re not properly trained for any job. The government must provide us with a long-term solution,” Krishna Prasad Dangal told AFP. “We are only half-skilled,” he said.

Police did not say when they expected to release the young people. The fate of the more than 19,000 older former Maoist fighters, who have been living in camps across the impoverished Himalayan nation since the civil war ended in 2006, is still unclear.

Nepal’s political leaders are split over whether to allow the ex-rebels to join the country’s military.… Read the rest

UN Passes Resolution Against Recruitment of Child Soldiers

Agence France-Presse

UNITED NATIONS – The UN Security Council unanimously adopted on Tuesday a resolution against recruitment of child soldiers, pressing nations to halt the abuse of children including rape and attacks on schools.

In its report on child soldiers last year, the United Nations for the first time named military forces and rebel groups that persistently used children in armed conflict.

The groups included Myanmar’s national army and two rebel militant groups in the country; three insurgent groups in the Philippines; the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia; armies and militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and pro-government militias in Sudan as well as the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

The signatories “call upon member states concerned to take decisive and immediate action against persistent perpetrators of violations and abuses committed against children in situations of armed conflict, and further call upon them to bring to justice those responsible for such violations.”

The resolution highlighted actions prohibited under international law, including “recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, rape and other sexual violence, attacks on schools and/or hospitals.”

It also cited “the primary role of governments in providing protection and relief to all children affected by armed conflicts,” and said it was “the responsibility of states to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other egregious crimes perpetrated against children.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the resolution — an initiative by current Security Council president Germany — is the eighth since 1998 to condemn nations and militaries which use children to wage war and subject them to brutal violence like rape and maimings.… Read the rest