Child Soldier eradication Training closes in Nairobi

Nairobi:– The Training of Trainers (ToT) by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to prevent the recruitment and use of children as child soldiers in Somalia closed in Nairobi yesterday with participants calling for an end to the use of minors in armed conflict.

The 12-day training that involved at least 23 participants drawn from the Somali National Security Forces (military, police and intelligence) and Federal Government of Somalia officials noted that the issue of child soldiers is an evil that needs to be eradicated.

The Head of Protection, Human Rights and Gender Cluster at AMISOM, Kareem Adebayo, noted that the training was critical as every child born in Somalia was at risk of being recruited as a soldier. He called for the protection of all the children in Somalia to prevent them from getting involved in armed conflict.

“The training that we have just concluded is therefore a pertinent training because in the context of asymmetrical warfare where you have non-state actors who are actively causing havoc where they are; whether in Somalia with Al-Shabaab, whether in Nigeria with Boko Haram or whether in Syria with ISIL – these people use children, they brainwash the children to achieve their dastardly acts,” added Adebayo who is also AMISOM Acting Chief of Staff.

Lt Col Ewen Turner, Representative of the British Peace Support Team in East Africa said he was privileged to be part of the groundbreaking effort to rid Somalia of child soldiers.

“There’s a chance now that a child born in Somalia since the conflict started has a chance to not become directly involved in the fighting,” Lt. Col. Turner noted. He said he looked forward to similar trainings “delivered by Somalis for Somalia and Somalia people.”

The Commandant, Peace and Conflict Studies School, Col F. Kihanya, said the training would help curb the menace of child soldiers in Somalia.

“It’s my sincere hope that this training will enable you to charter new ways to help curb the issue of recruiting and use of child soldiers in Somalia. You’re not alone,” the Commandant of Peace and Conflict Studies School said.

In an interview after the closure of the meeting, Adebayo said he expected the participants to transfer the skills learned at the workshop back home and help the country in tackling the issue of child soldiers at the warfront.

“Every child born in that country [Somalia] is potentially a child soldier unless we have this kind of training. So, the training is to ensure that the Federal Government of Somalia, SNA (Somali National Army), SPF (Somali Police Force), the Federal member states are all alive to their responsibilities that they don’t use children as child soldiers,” Adebayo added.

The Chief of Staff said the training is part of AMISOM’s exit strategy, aimed at leaving the country in the able hands of Somalis.

Captain Barlin Ali Guled of the Somalia National Army (SNA) said the training was crucial to peace in her country.

“I’m sure that the experience I have received here will benefit my country. I go home with more experience than I had when I came here. I will take this experience and knowledge back home to stop recruitment of child soldiers and I will share this knowledge with the community,” Captain Barlin Ali Guled said.

The training which was facilitated by experts in the field of child soldier eradication saw the participants awarded certificates.