'I believe the good die young, so there are no age restrictions for one to be God's soldier,' said the boy, manning a position behind sandbags on a street corner in Mogadishu's Tarbunka neighbourhood. 'This is what my friends and I have chosen without being forced and I am happy being who I am,' he added, fumbling the butt of an AK-47 that almost looks larger than him.
Husein volunteered to point out that he became a gunman in one of the world's most violent countries of his own will. Yet his words have an oddly rehearsed ring to them. Child enrolment in hostilities is more than the suicidal teenage craze of a lost generation that has known nothing outside the 18-year-old civil conflict. It is now a systematic and deliberate drive by Somalia's countless militias. All players in the latest bout of fighting - which has pitted supporters of the internationally-backed government against hardline insurgents - are involved in recruiting children, UNICEF said. No one knows exactly how many child soldiers there are in Somalia but experts estimate thousands have been roped into the ranks of armed groups. UNICEF estimates there are 250,000 child soldiers across the globe. Thousands of them are in Somalia, which has not known any effective central authority since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre. Desperately low school enrolment levels, poverty, lack of social development schemes and inadequate birth registration systems make recruitment all the easier. Many observers and rights groups suspect the same has been happening in the refugee camps set up in neighbouring countries, notably in Kenya. -- AFP
Recruitment is either forced or 'voluntary,' when desire for revenge is stirred in young boys whose families have been affected by war.Husein Abdi dropped out of secondary school in 2007 shortly after Ethiopian forces rolled into Somalia. He joined hardline Islamist militants in Mogadishu after his uncle was killed in a gunbattle with Ethiopian forces.