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AU condemns use of children in armed conflicts in Africa

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ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA | Xinhua | The African Union (AU) has strongly condemned the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts in Africa and called for an end to such practices.

The call was made in line with the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, which is annually commemorated on Feb. 12.

The statement, which was attributed to Bankole Adeoye, AU commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, and Jainaba Jagne, permanent representative of the Gambia to the AU, in their capacity as the co-chairs of the Africa Platform on Children Affected by Armed Conflicts (APCAAC), called for concerted efforts against the scourge.

The AU encouraged its member states to take systematic and targeted steps to protect children against violations of all their rights, especially the recruitment and use of boys and girls in conflict situations.

It called on African countries to intensify efforts to secure children’s release at every opportunity, with children given priority in the demobilization process.

“Children in situations of conflict, by virtue of their age and evolving capacities, are victims. Even when they have been used to commit or witness offenses in conflict, their vulnerability to instrumentalization, manipulation, and exploitation mitigates their guilt as perpetrators,” it said.

Inaugurated in September 2021, the APCAAC is an AU initiative that envisages protecting children affected by conflicts from killing and maiming, recruitment or use of children as soldiers, sexual violations, abduction, and attacks against schools or hospitals, among others. It serves as an advisory, advocacy, and supportive mechanism to the AU agenda on child protection in situations of conflict.

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According to the AU, the annual commemoration day provides an opportunity to raise awareness against the recruitment and use of children, either directly or indirectly, by all parties to the conflict.

The AU called on African countries to tap into the annual commemorative event to reflect on the progress achieved in addressing this enormous violation and carve a way forward toward zero recruitment and use of children in conflicts.

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