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