The protection of civilians, especially women and children, and International Human Rights obligations were top of the agenda during a two-day Human Rights and Child Protection training conducted by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Organized by the AMISOM’s Protection, Human Rights and Gender Unit, the training was part of AMISOM’s support to the Somali security forces with the knowledge and capacity to comply with international human rights law and child protection standards. In attendance were Somali National Army (SNA) and Somali Police Force (SPF) personnel drawn from Baidoa and Jowhar.
“The United Nations Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council have mandated AMISOM to ensure compliance with the various international human rights and child protection standards, especially in AMISOM joint operations with Somali Security Forces. Critically, the elections and election security are presently high on the agenda. Therefore, you must be aware of human rights and child protection standards to protect the citizens during the election period,” said AMISOM Protection Officer, Gloria Jaase, who presided over the opening session of the training on Tuesday. Emphasized as a key responsibility of the Somali security forces was the prevention of children from being recruited and used in armed conflict, which is a core area of intervention of the Protection, Human Rights and Gender Unit of AMISOM.
“The efforts of the Somali security forces through joint operations with AMISOM and preparing to eventually assume full responsibility of their country’s security, cannot be separated from the need to ensure adherence to international human rights and child protection norms and standards. It is therefore important to ensure that Somali security forces are compliant as well as accountable,” said AMISOM Human Rights Officer, Ulrike Kahbila Mbuton.
Mbuton said that one important indicator of the readiness of Somalia’s security forces to take over responsibilities from AMISOM, as guided by the Somalia Transition Plan, was in their capacity to comply with human rights and child protection norms. Somalia’s many years of civil war and armed conflict resulted in serious human rights violations and a lack of adequate protection for children, further exposing them to other grave violations including being recruited and used as child soldiers. However, with the progress made towards stability and democratic governance, Somalia has shown a commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, with particular attention being given to the rights of children. Participants were trained on a number of pertinent human rights and child protection concepts, including introduction to human rights; an overview on human rights; Islam and Somali culture; introduction to women’s rights; children’s rights and child protection; Sexual Gender-based Violence (SGBV); conflict-related Sexual Violence (CRSV); and the role of the Somali security forces in advancing human rights and child protection.
In closing the training, the head of the Protection, Human Rights and Gender Unit, Kareem Adebayo, reiterated that the religion of Islam, in which a lot of Somalia’s traditions and norms are rooted, spoke to respect for human rights and the protection of children, long before international concepts and frameworks were established.
Since the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PHRG unit of AMISOM has conducted online training sessions on human rights and child protection targeting Somalia’s Civil Society, the security forces, law enforcement agencies and other institutions of governance at the federal and federal member state level.