Insurgent and government forces in Somalia together account for some of the highest numbers of children abused in conflicts worldwide, the United Nations secretary-general said on Tuesday.
Somalia is ranked as the world’s leading violator of prohibitions against recruitment and use of children for military purposes, with 2,300 such cases documented last year.
CHILD SOLDIERS AND ABDUCTIONS
Sexual violence against children also occurred more frequently in Somalia than in any of 20 conflict situations globally, UN leader Antonio Guterres said. In an annual report on children and armed conflict, Mr Guterres cited 331 cases in Somalia of rape and other sexual abuses of children.
Somalia likewise led the world in the number of children abducted in 2018. More than 1,600 such incidents were reported for Somalia — more than four times the number recorded for the Democratic Republic of Congo, which ranked as second-worst in the world in child abductions.
Most of the abuses of children in Somalia were carried out by al-Shabaab, Mr Guterres noted. For example, the militant group killed or maimed 437 boys and girls last year.
But Somali government forces were also deemed responsible for a large number of child casualties — 113 attributed to the national army and 26 to the police. The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) killed or maimed 15 children last year, the report found.
Somalia’s army and police also recruited a total of 248 children. Shabaab, which far surpassed that total, is increasing its use of child soldiers, the UN noted. The militants recruited 1,865 children last year, “including by forcing clan elders and parents to provide children or face reprisal,” the secretary-general said.
The Somali National Army and police force were together responsible for more verified incidents of sexual violence against children (63) than was al-Shabaab (46), according to the UN report.
Overall, the number of Somali children affected by grave violations increased by 23 percent last year in comparison to 2017, the UN said.
Although government forces contributed significantly to that increase, the UN secretary-general included Somalia’s army and police on a secondary “list of shame.”
The UN considers some parties to conflicts more shameful than others because they have not put in place measures to protect children.
Somalia’s army and police, however, are included on a lesser “List B” because they are said to have taken initiatives aimed at protecting children.
“It’s baffling that the secretary-general’s ‘not-so-bad’ list gives credit to parties that are increasing, not reducing, their violations against children,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch.
According to a UN press release, globally children continue to be used in combat, particularly in Somalia, Nigeria and Syria; and they continue to be victims of armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.
Children’s rights also continue to be violated as they suffer many other abuses such as the serious deprivation of access to education, deprivation of liberty and sexual violence, especially in areas where there is conflict.