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July 9, 2012 (TSR) – Last Tuesday Somalia signed an action plan to stop child soldier recruitment and discharge all under-age recruits serving in the country’s national army.
The action plan was signed in Rome, Italy, by the minister of defence and deputy prime minister, Hussein Arab Isse, and by the UN secretary-general’s special representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), Augustine Mahiga, on behalf of the UN.
“The Action Plan outlines concrete steps to be taken by the Somalia authorities to ensure a child-free national army. Full compliance with the Action Plan will result in the Government of Somalia being removed from the UN Secretary-General’s list of parties who recruit and use children,” the UN said.
Under the action plan Somalia pledges to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. In collaboration with the UN, the country will also provide assistance for their reintegration to families and communities.
At the signing Mahiga said the plan “will be critical for the professionalization of the security forces, and will contribute positively to the ongoing stabilization of Somalia”.
Mahiga called on the countries present at the International Contact Group (ICG) meeting on Somalia to provide the necessary funding for the release and reintegration of children in military service.
According to UN, the action plan responds to the UN Security Council’s call in resolution 1612 (2005), for concrete and time-bound action to halt the recruitment and use of children.
The meeting also called for another action plan focusing on protecting children from being killed or maimed later this month.
The issue of child recruitment in war torn Somalia had long been a question to be addressed. Since 2007, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia was added to the UN Secretary-General’s list of countries that recruit and use children.
The Somalia transitional government now says it is determined to return under-age soldiers to their families and to provide support for them to enrol them in schools as well as to ensure their well-being, a progress hailed by UN.
“I am encouraged to hear that the Government has committed to sign a similar agreement to end the killing and maiming of children,” the UN special representative for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy said.
“Somalia must now sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols,” Coomaraswamy added.