Somalia / Uganda: Child soldiers are waiting for help from Europe

from Society for Threatened Peoples
Published on 09 Feb 2007
Attempts at peace threatened with failure: 80,000 child soldiers in Uganda and Somalia are waiting for help from Europe

Göttingen, February 09, 2007 - The Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) warned on Friday of a failure of the peace talks in Uganda and Somalia in the light of the fact that more than 80,000 child soldiers are directly affected in both countries if hostilities are resumed. "It is a matter of urgent necessity that the European Union (EU) support the peace processes in both countries to stop the nightmare of new violence for millions of children in these African states", said the GfbV Africa correspondent Ulrich Delius.

The human rights organisation asked Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to insist at today's meeting of the Somalia contact group on a representative government of national unity being formed in Somalia to secure lasting peace. Since June 2006 the EU, the USA and other leading states in the Somalia contact group have been working for a stabilisation of the country on the Horn of Africa. Up until now the transition government of Somalia, which is supported by the EU and the USA, has refused to consider all the important clan groups of the country in forming a government.

"Only if the transition government, which is hated throughout the country, at last becomes genuinely representative and puts forward a clear government programme will the more than 78,000 child soldiers who are under arms in Somalia finally have a chance for peace after 16 years of war and more than one million dead", warned Delius.

In the peace process in northern Uganda also the EU must play a more active role if it really has serious intentions concerning the child soldiers, demanded the GfbV. Northern Uganda must no longer be a hell on earth for the children. The human rights organisation called upon the German foreign minister as chairperson of the EU council of foreign ministers, to exercise massive pressure on the government of Uganda and the rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, to prevent a failure of the peace process which began in July 2006.

"The lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees and their children are in acute danger if the civil war in northern Uganda breaks out again", said Delius. Only 230,000 of the 1.7 million displaced persons have been able to leave the refugee camps since the signing of the truce on 29th August 2006. More than 1.4 million are still living in 200 camps where the standard of care is extremely bad. The situation of the child soldiers is even worse. 2,500 children are still under arms with the LRA. But the regular Ugandan army also recruits child soldiers as a routine. Since 1986 the LRA has abducted more than 20,000 children to misuse them as child soldiers. The fate of 10,000 abducted children has still not been cleared up.