Friday, June 18, 2010

Somali Child Soldiers

A recent report by a New York Times reporter that the current Transitional Federal Government of Somalia employs child soldiers to keep the peace in the areas it controls has become a subject of discussion in the global media. Images of dishevelled underage Somali children carrying AK-47 rifles raise questions about the ill-intentions of the besieged Somali government.

Taxpayers in the West perceive hippocracy and deception on the part of their governments for recklessly dishing out their hard-earned monies to a government that does not respect the rights of the child. According to some estimates, 20% of Somalia's children are engaged in conflict as child soldiers. These children are either orphaned, abandoned, homeless or have been forcefully conscripted against their wishes or have been attracted to the meager wages offered by heartless militia commanders including Somalia's national army that is short of willing recruits.

As a result of push-pull factors, these children are being lured either by the desire to win their daily bread or the urge to satisfy their drug addictions. Somalia is synonymous with the consumption of Qaad-a narcotic leaf grown in the highlands of Kenya and Ethiopia-a drug that contains fatal ingredients of cathinone (or cathonine)and known to induce euphoria, insomnia, and hypersensivity.

On the other hand, the absence of social activities, lack of schools, abject poverty, and massive unemployment opens a path for competition, survival, and bitter struggle among those who don't have relatives in the Diaspora. Often, children with no guardians or role models find themselves left with options other than fending for themselves. Strange as it may seem, the main perpetrators who exposed these children to such horrendous living conditions and untold suffering, have taken their children out of harms way and settled them in far away peaceful lands.

News that the president of Somalia has ordered a thorough investigation of New York Times' damaging revelations about Somali child-soldiers be carried could be welcoming if only we knew the effectiveness and impartiality of the final findings. Though it is easy to verify the number of child-soldiers serving in Somalia's army, what makes the veracity of the anticipated final report unconvincing even before it is made public, is the current government's past investigative failures. Perhaps, fearing public scrutiny, the current government is yet to deliver the results of investigations into past horrific incidents including the deadly suicide bombing of Hotel Shamo in December of last year where prominent public figures, university leactures, and graduating students met their untimely deaths.

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