UNITED NATIONS – The 2006 U.N. Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children defines violence as the intentional use of physical force or power that results in injury, death, psychological harm or deprivation. This year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report to the U.N. Security Council on Somalia discussing the drop in violence against Somali children over the last 12 months. Between January and March of 2013, the number of “grave violations” against children had dropped to 552 cases, a considerable decrease when compared to the 1,840 cases in the same months of 2012. In the first quarter of 2013 alone, the number of children killed, maimed, abused and recruited to fight in Somalia was cut in half, thanks largely to a less open combat between the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab and Somali forces.
The al-Shabaab militants began their crusade for strict Islamic law in Somalia back in 2007. The Somali government has struggled to contain the militants. In fact, the Somali military can be likened more to a group of competing militias than a unified policing force. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the majority of violations against Somali children including abductions, recruitment, sexual violence and attacks on schools were committed by al-Shabaab militants affiliated with al Qaeda; however the majority of child killings could be traced back to Somali National Forces.
A U.N.-mandated African Union peacekeeping force has lead the fight against al-Shabaab where Somalian forces were unable or ill-equipped to influence the situation. Most of the security gains made over the past two years have been a direct result of the 17,600 member peacekeeping Union. They have successfully reclaimed territory from al-Shabaab militants, but Ban Ki-moon worries that the peacekeeping mission will fail to hold territory or pressure militants out of other areas without additional resources.
Ban Ki-moon’s report urges countries to help in the peacekeeping mission in any way that they can, but was specific in his support of the 2012 ban on purchasing Somali charcoal, an export that generated more than $25 million in revenue for al-Shabaab in 2011.
– Dana Johnson