Hundreds of children in the South West state of Somalia joined other youths across the continent in marking the Day of the African Child amid guarantees from the government that their rights will be protected.
The celebrations were organized by the regional state’s Ministry of Women and Human Rights and attended by representatives of the South West administration, the Federal Government of Somalia, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), religious leaders and representatives of civil society.
Speaking during the celebrations, the South West Minister of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Hassan Hussein Elay said the administration will 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 the government policy not to recruit a child below 20 years of age,” the minister noted, adding that the state welcomes discussions on the condition of the children.
Muktar Ali Issak, Chairman of the Disabled Persons in Bay region, appealed to the regional administration to conduct awareness campaigns to prevent vulnerable street children from falling prey to the propaganda of terrorist groups.
“These street children you see will be recruited easily. They will be enticed with money,” Mr. Issak said. “Recently 32 street children were taken from here. If they go out of the market, they are taken.”
The chairman called on South West administration officials to help protect children.
Hassan Ibrahim of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Child Protection Unit sent a goodwill message to all Somali children.
“I also pass my congratulatory message to children who could not get the opportunity to celebrate this important day, especially those in areas controlled by Al-Shabaab, detention centers being managed by Al-Shabaab and areas which cannot be accessed by either the government or NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who are working with the (UNSOM) child protection unit,” Mr. Ibrahim stated.
The Day of the African Child is celebrated on June 16 every year. It was first observed in 1991 by the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Commemoration of the day was conducted under the theme ‘accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunities for children in Africa by 2030’.