Somalia Week in Focus: Top Stories (Jan. 20, 2017)

 Week ending January 20, 2017 

‘Thousands of child soldiers’ in Somalia, says UN chief

This week, a new United Nations report on the status of child soldiers in Somalia was released and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has joined calls for putting an immediate end to the recruitment of child soldiers.

The UN report found that Al Shabaab insurgent group recruited and used 4,200 child soldiers between April 2010 and July 2016. During that same period, the Somali National Army in Mogadishu used 920 child soldiers, the report stated.

The child soldiers were used in a variety of roles, including spying on enemy forces, transporting weapons and engaging in frontline combat, the report said.

The UN report also found that, during a March 2016 Al Shabaab coastal assault on Puntland in northern Somalia, child soldiers made up about 60% of Al Shabaab’s fighting force.

Mr Guterres said he was “deeply troubled” by the “grave violations against children in Somalia and their increase since 2015”.

Gang rape case sparks outrage in Puntland

Domestic and international outrage erupted this week after a 16-year-old girl was gang-raped in Somalia and the perpetrators leaked a recorded video of their heinous criminal activity.

The incident occurred in Galdogob, a district in Mudug region of Puntland state along Somalia’s border with Ethiopia.

Mohamed Ali Farah, director-general of Puntland’s Ministry of Justice, told Reuters: “We have refused to allow traditional elders to intervene. We shall take the teenagers to the court for raping the girls and they will face a severe punishment”.

Moreover, Puntland’s state government approved a Sexual Offences Act in 2015 which establishes harsher sentences for rapists, including a 15-year minimum sentence and more support for rape victims.

Puntland authorities arrested five young men in the case. Ifrah Ahmed, a gender adviser to Somalia’s outgoing Prime Minister, said that the federal government

Local and international advocacy groups have condemned the rape crime, while the video that was shared on social media sparked more outrage.

Famine conditions worsen in Somalia

Famine conditions continue to worsen in Somalia, the UN reported this week.

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, said “immediate support” is needed in Somalia.

Mr Clercq said: “Given the early warning provided by the humanitarian community and the Federal Government on the drought situation, early action is the only way to demonstrate that we have learnt the lessons from the past to avert another catastrophe”.

The UN is asking for US$864million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia, to help 3.9million persons in need of urgent life-saving assistance.

Nisar Majid, food security expert and author on “Famine in Somalia”, told Al Jazeera: “The situation remains very complicated and the political issues always take precedence in the end and it depends on how those dynamics play out”.

Somalia’s outgoing president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has appealed to the Somali people and the international community: “I want to remind the Somalis and the world community that the life of a single person should not die for a glass of water they can provide today. A person dying today cannot wait [for] your tomorrow aid”.

Al Shabaab executes Ugandan soldiers in video

Al Shabaab militants have released a propaganda video showcasing the execution of an alleged Ugandan soldier, who was deployed in Somalia serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The video shows a bearded Ugandan soldier identified as Masassa M.Y. who was captured in September 2015. The video concluded with the soldier being shot in the head by an unidentified Al Shabaab fighter.

In his last words on video, the soldier warned Ugandan soldiers not to come to Somalia.

Ugandan military spokesman Henry Obbo has said that the Ugandan army is unaware of the video.

US and Somalia jointly host security symposium in Mogadishu

The US and Somalia jointly hosted a security symposium in Mogadishu. US Army Col. Kyle Reed was the symposium’s facilitator.

Somali military leaders met with military chiefs from the world community at the security symposium, where discussions centered around efforts to strengthen Somali army capabilities.

The meeting was attended by Somali National Army commanders, military leaders from Somali regions, military officials from ten foreign governments, and representatives from three world organizations.

Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, said: “We are coming out of a very successful election, and it speaks volumes for the contributions of AMISOM to Somalia’s security, but AMISOM’s time is ending. Time is ticking and decisions need to be made.”

The symposium was the first of its kind in Somalia since the state collapse of 1991 led to the breakdown of the Somali defense forces.

The symposium’s objective was to identify existing “similarities, discrepancies and challenges” facing efforts to strengthen the Somali army.

AMISOM troops have been deployed in Somalia since 2007, helping to protect the country’s weak federal government.

Source: Somali Review

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