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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Press release on the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers

On the occasion of the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) through its focal point for the implementation of Resolution 332 on Human Rights in Conflict Situations, Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, wishes to join the international community in marking this important day.

Despite ongoing efforts by governments, the African Union, the United Nations, international and grassroots organizations to disinsentivize and demobilise child soldiers on the African continent, various conflicts have seen a new surge in the use of child combatants. Africa today is the continent with the largest number of child soldiers.

Armed militias and rebel groups conscript child soldiers, a practice which is prevalent in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Terrorist groups in Somalia and the Lake Chad region continue to recruit children into their ranks, including in the latter case as suicide bombers. Children are also affected in other ways, being forced to work as cooks, bodyguards, messengers, porters and being used as sex slaves and human shields, facing the destruction of schools and health clinics and being forcibly displaced. These traumas leave lasting physical and psychological scars on all affected by it.

The Commission wishes to express its appreciation to the 46 African States which have to date ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, thereby showing their commitment to  addressing this major challenge. The Commission calls on those States that have not yet done so, to solidify their commitment through ratification.

The Commission calls on States to recommit to the African Union Vision 2020 of Silencing the Guns by 2020, and to ratify and implement the African Youth Charter, which imposes obligations on States to strengthen the capacity of the youth and their organizations in peace building, conflict prevention and resolutions; condemn armed conflict and prevent the participation in whichever form and recruitment of young people in armed conflicts.

The Commission wishes to remind State Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that they bear the primary responsibility for the protection and promotion of human rights, including during times of conflict. The Commission thus calls on State Parties to provide comprehensive support to children affected by war, including through legislation, provision of redress and support to survivors, conducting investigations, punishing perpetrators and ensuring the involvement of survivors throughout the post-conflict peacebuilding processes.

The African Commission, mindful of its role to respond to cases of ‘series of serious or massive violations of human and peoples’ rights’ and to ensure that human rights issues are addressed in conflict prevention, management and resolution, reaffirms its full support to the fight against impunity for the recruitment and use of child soldiers and the need to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice.

Honourable Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, Focal Point for Conflict and Human Rights

Banjul, 13 February 2019