MILF agrees to end recruitment of children

Written by Manila Standard.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Saturday released children associated with the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Women’s Auxiliary Brigade (BIWAB), ending the recruitment and use of children within their ranks. 

The move is part of a  series of ceremonies that will eventually disengage around 1,858 children who were formally or informally associated with the armed wing of the MILF.   

The United Nations, through its children’s agency Unicef, facilitated this process in line with the UN-MILF Action Plan on addressing the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in Mindanao.  

The UN-MILF Action Plan, signed in 2009 and extended in 2013,  signifies the commitment of the MILF to end the recruitment and use of children within their ranks. The progress achieved to date is the result of the commitment and action by the MILF at the highest levels, as well as by front and base commanders. The systematic sensitisation, awareness raising and training initiatives for the BIAF and communities living in core MILF base command areas were essential pre-requisites to achieve a level of understanding and acceptance on the issue of recruitment and use of children.

“Children affected by armed conflict are some of the most vulnerable children in the world. We need not look far, right here in the Philippines children are affected by armed conflict in different ways. They can be recruited as soldiers and engaged in direct combat, or as aides with seriously harmful consequences threatening their life and well-being. Let children be children­—let them play, go to school and live healthy and happy,” Unicef Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said.

Fatimah (not her real name), 16 years old, was forced to leave her home because of conflict. She helped out her community by washing the dishes, cooking and cleaning. 

“I don’t like it when people fight because children like me get caught in the middle. We get scared when we have to flee. I hope that war will stop so that our communities can live in peace and quiet,” she said.

The release of children associated with MILF allows them to receive appropriate support from government and development partners to enjoy all their rights to health, education and protection. The MILF is also bound to institute safeguards through its command structure to regularly monitor and screen troops to prevent children from associating or re-associating. 

“The release of children from the MILF is only the beginning of the next phase of their youth. The next step is to ensure that these children receive support. The work to build a lasting peace involves everyone, including the government, the NGO community, private sector, local leaders, elders, parents, and the children themselves,” Sylwander added.

Source: Manila Standard