UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SOMALIA: Government calls for assistance to rehabilitate child soldiers
NAIROBI, 2 Feb 2007 (IRIN) - About 70,000 children have been conscripted into Somalia’s fighting factions, exposing them to attacks and separating them from their families, a Somali government official said on Friday in Nairobi.
"These children have been recruited over time and now about 70,000 are involved in this conflict, on all sides," said Qamar Aden, the chairwoman of Somalia’s parliamentary committee on human rights. This figure was provided by the United Nations Joint Needs Assessment team for Somalia, she said.
However, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, in a 2004 report, estimated that 200,000 children had been recruited into the different factions of Somalia's conflict over a 14-year period.
Aden said the government had released all child soldiers captured in the fighting with the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). However, those released do not undergo any form of rehabilitation due to a lack of capacity in the Transitional Federal Government.
"Currently we have no policy on the released children. We just give them amnesty and let them go. They are basically back on the street, since we don’t have the means to help them," added Aden.
“Now we are asking the international community to help us rehabilitate these children,” Aden said.
Aden was speaking in Nairobi as part of a Somali government delegation, which includes the Minister for Women’s Development and Family Affairs Amina Mursal, and Ebyan Salah, the gender adviser to the Prime Minister, who are en route to France to attend the ‘Free children from war’ conference.
The conference, convened by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will be held on 5-6 February 2007 and will examine the protection and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups.
Aden said: "The Somali government is attending this conference to show their commitment to fighting for children’s rights and to ask for assistance in issues relating to demobilisation, reintegration and child protection."
"We will ask the international community to help us rehabilitate these children and provide them with an alternative to the gun culture,” said Mursal.
The Paris conference will provide an opportunity to obtain international political commitment for the protection, release and reintegration of children recruited or used by armed forces and armed groups.
However, Somalia has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a result of the ongoing conflicts that pose a great challenge to the governance of the country, Aden said.
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