AMISOM Investigates Use Of Child Soldiers

Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson (2nd left) chats with medical staff from the Ugandan contingent serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) during a visit on 27 October 2013. Photo: AU/UN IST/ Stuart Price
Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson (2nd left) chats with medical staff from the Ugandan contingent serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) during a visit on 27 October 2013. Photo: AU/UN IST/ Stuart Price

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has commenced investigations into alleged use of child soldiers in its ranks.

A United Nations report on child soldiers released in May had indicated that AMISOM was using child soldiers in its ranks to man check points and cook in the army barracks.

Colonel Ali Eden Houmed, the AMISOM overall spokesperson told the media that AMISOM had become concerned by the allegations in the report and they will commence investigations into the matter.

Colonel Ali says AMISOM forces are committed to respecting international law and will look into the UN allegations.

In the report prepared by the UN special representative on Children and Armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, AMISOM’s sister force in the fight against Al-Shabaab, The Somalia National Army is also accused  of harbouring over 200 children in their ranks and using them for intelligence gathering and combat operations.

The allegations come at a crucial time in AMISOM’s fight against Al-Shabaab. The continental force is battling to oust the terrorist group from parts of Somalia, in what it code-names a ‘final offensive’. Al-shabaab also took the beating in the report with a reported number of over 1000 child soldiers in their ranks.

Ali says AMISOM will let the Somali National Army and the Federal government of Somalia know of the allegations to end the use of child soldiers in the Somalia conflict.

Ugandan forces are deployed in Somalia under AMISOM and occupy Mogadishu town. The Ugandan contingent spokesperson, Major Deo Akiiki, told URN that UPDF doesn’t accommodate children in its ranks. He said the criterion for taking soldiers to Somalia does not also allow junior officers who have recently graduated from the army school to undertake the mission.

The report mentions other areas Uganda child soldiers are being used in combat including Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic by the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) and Lord’s Resistance Army rebels respectively.

In 2012, former Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted by an international tribunal of using child soldiers in conflict and other war crimes.

Over the last ten years, two million children have been killed in conflict. Over one million have been orphaned, over six million others have been seriously injured or permanently disabled and over ten million have been left with serious psychological trauma.

The report in part aims to reduce the participation of children in conflicts globally.

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