On Child Soldiers Next to UK Forces in Somalia,
By Matthew Russell Lee
Inner City Press
July 26, 2012
UNITED NATIONS, July 25 -- The issue of child soldiers came onto the UN Security Council agenda under the rubic of "Children and Armed Conflict" and Western countries like France, the UK and Germany are the loudest on it, with India, Pakistan and Colombia on the skeptic side.
So when Inner City Press, which covers the Council and the issue, was sent a set of captioned photographs featuring UK special forces and Somali children with guns midday on July 25, they were immediately turned into questions directed to the UK Mission to the UN by Inner City Press.
The UK Mission spokesman, to his credit, turned around with fast answers, marked below in bold:
I must ask you for UK response to this in Dissident Nation
ICP question: are these UK special forces?
UK answer: The UK Ministry of Defence has deployed a small military support team to Mogadishu in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The team is working to provide support and advice in specific areas agreed with AMISOM and the activity that the team conducts is developed in conjunction with the African Union and AMISOM. The team is acting in an advisory rather than combat role, on functions such as assistance with stabilisation, strategic communications and medical support. However, they wear uniform and carry weapons for personal protection reasons. As part of this collaborative process with AMISOM, an element of the UK team was asked to accompany an AMISOM spokesman to the recently liberated area of Afgooye.
ICP question: what is the protocol for UK forces if they come upon child soldiers? In Somalia, specifically, and anywhere else the UK forces may have witnessed child soldiers.
UK answer: Occasionally, in some areas of the world during the course of trying to assist foreign governments to improve security, British soldiers may inadvertently encounter young people carrying weapons. The UK condemns the use of child soldiers.
The UK Mission spokesman also told Inner City Press, about the captions to the photos:
“…they show British special forces working alongside Somali child soldiers and troops of the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Afgoye, just outside the Somali capital.”
UK answer: Not true. Several show a British soldier in a village. In one picture, he is talking to a child carrying a gun, but nothing suggests that he is “working” with that individual. That same child is seen in a different photograph taken elsewhere, apparently walking away from AMISOM soldiers near an AMISOM defensive position. There are no British soldiers in that photograph. So there is no indication from any of the pictures that British forces are “working alongside Somali child soldiers”.
“While some of the photos show British troops playing with the local children, other photos clearly show them working in the vicinity of child soldiers serving the army they were sent to support.”
UK answer: See above. No they don’t.
“The United Kingdom is violating its own laws by sending its soldiers to fight alongside an army that has no issue with recruiting children for combat.”
UK answer: Not the case. Our position is unchanged - we condemn the use of child soldiers. And to be clear, no British soldiers are fighting alongside anyone in Somalia. Not alongside the Somali armed forces, nor alongside AMISOM.
It is still somehow unseemly to see UK special forces in Somalia right next to children holding weapons. What new Children and Armed Conflict representative Leila Zerrougui will say or not say about it will be interesting to see. Watch this site.
Source: Inner City Press