MOGADISHU – Vulnerable Somali street children are falling prey to terrorist groups forcibly recruiting them, or enticing them into their ranks using money.
The Islamic militant al-Shabaab has emerged as the worst violator of international agreements regarding child soldiers.
Muktar Ali Issak, chairman of a disabled persons organisation in the southern Bay region, said 32 children had recently been recruited around markets where they mostly beg.
“These street children you see will be recruited easily. They will be enticed with money,” he said at an event to mark the Day of the African Child.
The event attended by minors was held in Baidoa over the weekend.
Speaking during the event, South West Minister of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Hassan Hussein Elay said his administration would take every step possible to stop violence against children, including their recruitment as child soldiers.
“As a ministry, we are ready to prevent any violence against children like child soldiers. It is part of government policy not to recruit a child below 20 years of age.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (Unsom) Child Protection Unit raised concern about children held in al-Shabaab detention centres. Such centres are among places that cannot be accessed by government nor non-governmental organisations.
Al-Shabaab, which has also carried out attacks in neighbouring Kenya, is among insecurity challenges Somalia has battled for more than two decades.
The East African country has also suffered sporadic hunger and disease outbreaks.
Elected in February, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has assured security would be the top priority for his administration.
African News Agency