Human Rights Watch Reports Use of Child Soldiers in Mozambique's Insurgent Attacks

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised alarming concerns about the recruitment of child soldiers by an Islamist group operating in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. According to HRW, boys as young as 13 were used in recent attacks on the town of Macomia, with residents recognizing some of the child soldiers as their missing relatives.

Al-Shabab, an affiliate of the Islamic State group, has been accused by UN agencies of kidnapping children and involving them in the insurgency since its onset in 2017. Witness testimonies gathered by HRW reveal that dozens of child soldiers were deployed in the attacks, armed with assault rifles and ammunition belts. Disturbingly, some residents identified their missing family members among the recruited children, raising questions about the radicalization and exploitation of vulnerable youth.

Recruiting children under the age of 15 as soldiers constitutes a war crime under international law, highlighting the severity of the situation. The recent attacks underscore the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado, where violence and instability continue to devastate communities.

These revelations come amidst heightened international attention on Mozambique’s insurgency, exacerbated by allegations of illegal timber trade funding the insurgents. The Environmental Investigation Agency’s findings further highlight the complex challenges facing the region, where environmental crimes intersect with armed conflict, exacerbating the humanitarian situation.

As regional forces, including South African troops, grapple with containing the insurgency, the plight of civilians remains dire. Over a million people have been displaced since 2017, with thousands losing their lives to the violence. Moreover, the conflict threatens critical infrastructure, including a multi-billion-dollar natural gas project, exacerbating economic vulnerabilities.

Efforts to address the crisis must prioritize the protection of civilians, particularly vulnerable children, and ensure accountability for perpetrators of war crimes. The international community’s engagement and support are crucial in addressing the root causes of the conflict and facilitating lasting peace and stability in Mozambique.

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Piers Potter


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