The Executive Director of African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), Dr Assefa Bequele, has disclosed that “the war on Africa’s children have persisted and getting worse, as Africa’s leaders have failed to protect children from the “horrors of war.”
He said this in a statement made available to Blueprint at the ongoing the inaugural Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
According to him, “Despite repeated United Nations Security Council resolutions, international conventions and regional agreements, African children continue to suffer. Progress on protection is deplorably slow, and perpetrators are rarely brought to justice for war crimes and grave violations.”
Nigerian Children and youth, as well as those from Ethiopia, Mali, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic are attending the conference to demand African decision makers enact changes in their countries to ensure children are safe in times of conflict.
The event is organised by the ACPF and Save the Children, with the financial support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
Bequele noted that the war on Africa’s children, often underreported, is fuelled by food insecurity, climate change, poor governance, absence of the rule of law, corruption, intercommunal tensions and violent extremism.
“Chronic underdevelopment, civil war, political instability and terrorism have created a perfect storm of child abductions, forced recruitment, rape and trafficking. Child protection in African conflict zones is weak, fragmented and underfunded,” he said.
“We hope that the Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict sends a clear message to the UN, AU, all actors to the conflicts, and to African political leaders. These tragedies are happening on our watch, and we are currently failing to protect children affected by armed conflict.”
The Save the Children had in its pre-conference statement by its Regional Director in West and Central Africa, Mr. Philippe Adapoe, disclosed that over two million children in countries of West and Central African affected by armed conflict could not assess school this session due to persistent conflict the these areas.
In a statement at the ongoing conference, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Save the Children Sweden, Helena Thybell, said the organisation’s 2019 report revealed that at least one in four African children lives in a conflict zone and the numbers of “grave violations” against children have almost tripled since 2010.
She urged the United Nations, the African Union and warring parties to end the numerous wars on the continent and step-up measures to protect children affected by conflict.
“African governments must take all necessary measures to end the killing and maiming, abductions, sexual violence, and recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, and they must cease attacks on schools, hospitals and humanitarian operations, as well as ensure that perpetrators of violations against children are held accountable,” she said.