Children at a ceremony to mark the day of the African child held in Mogadishu, Somalia on June 16, 2017. AMISOM Photo / Ilyas Ahmed
The federal Minister of Justice and Judiciary Affairs, Hassan Hussein Haji, reaffirmed his government's commitment to strengthen child protection legislation during an event held in the Somali capital to commemorate the Day of the African Child.
Minister Haji enumerated a series of steps taken by Somalia over the past seven years to prohibit the recruitment of children by the Somali military and armed groups and uphold the rights of minors by ratifying important international treaties like the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mr. Haji also took the opportunity to launch inside Somalia a global advocacy campaign called "ACT to Protect Children affected by Conflict." The campaign was unveiled last April by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.
"We are committing ourselves as the Federal Government of Somalia to act better to protect our children affected by armed conflict," he stated. "(This) will not be achieved if we do not act swiftly and jointly."
The minister also called on the federal parliament to expedite its approval of a landmark Sexual Offenses bill that was endorsed by the federal Council of Ministers last year.
The Deputy Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson for Somalia, Simon Mulongo, noted the support given by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the Somali National Army's decision to create a child protection unit. He also called on the federal government to ratify the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
"If the future of Somalia depends on the well-being of the children of today, it becomes imperative that (they) be provided with the necessary security, the right education, adequate health care and skills so they can deliver on the dream of a greater Somalia in the near future," said Mr. Mulongo.
The UNSOM Senior Child Protection Adviser Michael Ngabirano urged the federal government to bolster child protection mechanisms throughout the country and ensure that those responsible for violations against children are held accountable.
Yesterday's event was organized by the federal Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development in conjunction with the federal ministries of Defence, Internal Security, and Justice and Judiciary Affairs. AMISOM and UNSOM provided financial and technical support for the function.
The Day of the African Child is commemorated annually in remembrance of the hundreds of children who were killed in the South African township of Soweto on 16 June 1976 during anti-apartheid demonstrations.