Child soldiers have been used in Somalia for quite some time. The boys are used as soldiers on the front lines, while girls are forced to be the “wives” of al-Shabab fighters.
However, the recent use of child soldiers is different because of “the scale and violence of the forcible recruitment by al-Shabab since 2010,” according to the article.
According to the article, “‘Over the course of the last two years, al-Shabab has increasingly been forcibly abducting children – not only from their homes, but also from their schools and playing fields,’ HRW researcher Laetitia Bader told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.”
The use of child soldiers has been prevented under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The optional protocol sets 18 years old as the minimum age to engage in warfare.
However, this protocol has not stopped many nations- predominantly in Africa and parts of Asia- from using child soldiers in combat. Since 2002, when the protocol was enforced, many nations have vowed to stop using child soldiers, and for the most part most of those nations have kept to their promise. There are some nations, like Somalia, that have continued to use them.
The U.N.’s strategy of “naming and shaming” those that continue to use child soldiers is futile and does not deter nations from doing so. In order for child soldiers not to be used in combat, the U.N. needs to come up with a more aggressive strategy, like prosecuting those who use them more often or cutting off aid/resources.