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Somalia, UN Sign Action Plan To End Use Of Child Soldiers

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

(RTTNews) - The transitional government of Somalia on Tuesday signed an action plan to end the recruitment and use of children in the East African country's national military. The plan outlines concrete steps required to be taken by the Somali Government to ensure a child-free national army.

The plan was signed at a UN-backed meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia in Rome. The ICG consists of representatives of the United Nations and its diplomatic partners in support of efforts to restore peace and stability in Somalia.

The document was signed by Somalia's Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Arab Isse and Augustine Mahiga, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS).

"The signature of the action plan will be critical for the professionalization of the security forces, and will contribute positively to the ongoing stabilization of Somalia," Mahiga was quoted as saying in a UNPOS news release after signing the document.

"I strongly urge the governments present here at the ICG to come forward and provide the necessary funding for the release and reintegration of these children," Mahiga added.

Under the action plan signed Tuesday, the Somali Government committed itself to ending and preventing the recruitment of children in Somalia's National Armed Forces. They will reintegrate all children released from the armed forces with the support of the UN, criminalizing the recruitment of children through national legislation and providing the UN with unimpeded access to military installation to verify the presence of children.

Since 2007, the Transitional Federal Government has been listed on the UN Secretary-General's list of parties to conflict who recruit and use children. Full compliance with the action plan will result in the Government being removed from the list.

According to the press release, the Somali minister also committed to sign an action plan to protect children from being killed or maimed, in addition to the action plan signed Tuesday for ending the recruitment of child soldiers. The second action plan is expected to be signed later this month in Somalia's capital city of Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, welcomed the Somali government's commitment to sign the action plan for ending the killing and maiming of children, and said that Somalia must "now sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols."

Somalia has been without a functioning government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre's government in 1991. Currently, the UN-backed interim government set up in 2004 is trying to enforce its authority in Somalia.

The development comes as the deadline set by the international community in September last year for completing the political transition process in the troubled Horn of Africa nation is due to expire on August 20.


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