The AU Mission in Somalia has trained sixty officers from the Somali security forces in the prevention of recruitment and use of child soldiers in conflict.
The two-week training supported by the British government and the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, through the Dalhousie University of Canada, drew participants from the Somali military, police and intelligence services.
Representatives of non-governmental organizations, federal and regional level member states, also participated in the training which ended today.
“We should spare these children from being recruited into radicalism, from being recruited into committing acts of violence against their own people, against their own country and against their own neighbors,” Ambassador Francisco Caetano Madeira, the Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia, said in his remarks during the course of the capacity building workshop.
Noting that the use of child soldiers in conflict was widespread in Somalia, the AU Special Representative expressed the need to establish the exact numbers of children fighting wars in the country.
“It’s difficult to know exactly how many underage children are involved in this battle. We have to say its widespread, particularly within the Al-Shabaab ranks,” Ambassador Madeira stated.
The training focused on the identification of child soldiers, the prevention of their recruitment, their rehabilitation and reintegration.
Ambassador Madeira said the training was co-facilitated by Somalis previously trained in other trainings undertaken by AMISOM.
“This blueprint is part of AMISOM’s exit strategy and is aimed at capacitating Somalis to take responsibility of training their own counterparts,” he explained.
Mr. David Concar, the British Ambassador to Somalia attributed the widespread recruitment of child soldiers in Somalia to violent extremism propagated by the Al-Shabaab militant group.
“It does a huge harm to communities and it’s holding back the cause of peace in this part of Africa,” Mr. Concar noted.
“So we take this problem very seriously. We want to do something about it. That’s why we are working with the African Union through AMISOM and with the Federal Government of Somalia to fund special targeted training,” he added.
Mr. Simon Mulongo, the Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (DSRCC) for Somalia, said the training would equip Somali national security forces with skills and knowledge, to effectively contain the problem.
“As Somalis, you have to determine and manage the destiny of this country. Whereas AMISOM and other international partners are going soon, it’s your duty and obligation to understand governance, to be able to run the affairs of the country efficiently,” Mr. Mulongo remarked.
The training was coordinated by Mr. Musa Gbow, AMISOM’s Child Protection Advisor.
“The purpose of the training was to pre-select potential trainers who in turn will be trained sometime in October during a Training of Trainers session, so that they can continue to propagate the message and train their counterparts across the country,” Mr. Gbow explained.