“I am heartened by the pledge from President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and others in government to end the recruitment and use of children by government forces,” Leila Zerrougui, the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict said in a statement late Wednesday.
Hadi had ordered the country's security forces “not to recruit children under 18 years old” after his meeting with Zerrougui on Tuesday, state news agency Saba reported.
Zerrougui also held a “positive meeting” with Abdel Malek al-Huthi, the head of the Zaidi Shiite rebels in the northern Saada province “who also pledged to work towards the reintegration of children.”
In addition to the Yemeni army and Zaidi rebels, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar’s First Armoured Division which protected protesters against ousted strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh last year, as well as pro-army tribal militias who helped Yemeni troops battle Al-Qaeda in the south, also recruit children.
According to Seyaj, a Yemeni organization for the protection of children, nearly 100,000 children under the age of 18 have been involved in one of these groups, mentioned on the UN Secretary General’s “list of shame for the recruitment or use of children.”
“Children must go to school, not military camps; I urge the government to act quickly with the United Nations’ support in separating children from the security forces, and ensuring that they are reintegrated back into civilian life,” Zerrougui said in the statement.
“The restructuring of the security forces envisioned during the transition period offers a unique opportunity to end grave violations against children and to professionalize the security force.”