New project to tackle child soldier recruitment in Somalia

New project to tackle child soldier recruitment in Somalia
The African Union project aims to work against the recruitment of child soldiers in a country plagued by poverty.
2 min read
09 December, 2016
Children from impoverished backgrounds are regularly targeted by armed Islamist groups including al-Shabaab [AFP]
There are an estimated 5,000 child soldiers in Somalia, according to a recent UN report, with high poverty rates classified as a large contributing factor.

A spokesperson for the African Union (AU) spoke out about the use of child soldiers in Somalia on Thursday, ahead of a three-day conference on the issue.

Officials from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Somali National Army and the Somali government were at the three-day workshop in Mogadishu on preventing of recruitment of child soldiers.

"The continued recruitment and use of child soldiers by certain elements is a contributing factor to the protracted nature of the conflict in Somalia," said AU ambassador Francisco Madeira.

"Children are fighting wars created by adults."

According to the event organisers, candidates were picked from a cross-section of Somali society in the hopes that they could return and pass on the information.

"The diversity of the people at high level in this meeting was deliberate so that they can go back and educate the others," said Adebayo Kareem, Acting Chief of Staff at AMISOM.

The number one employer of child soldiers in Somalia is al-Shabaab, the armed Islamist militant group with links to Islamic State.

"We know that al-Shabab has a recruiting campaign for children sometimes involving persuasion," said Susannah Price, UNICEF's chief of communication.

"They may be giving money or food sometimes."