It is my honour and privilege to officiate at this august gathering which aims at looking into one of the world’s and indeed Africa’s woes being, “the use of child soldiers”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am informed that according to the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, there are about 250 000 child soldiers globally. To this end, in many of the current and recent ended African conflicts, many child soldiers have been used.
I believe that this Executive Seminar is a significant step in the right direction. Botswana is therefore proud to host such an event to contribute towards finding African Solutions to African problems in conjunction with global partners.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an undisputed fact that every nation’s future lies in its children, hence the need for their protection. Botswana as a country believes that we all need to come together and work tirelessly to avert this a terrible state of affairs.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the use of children as soldiers leaves an indelible mark on the minds of children for many years after the conflict is over. Not only does this rob us of responsible future leadership, it catapults children into the states of adulthood while they are still children. It entrenches undesirable notions like the use of force as the only and right way to achieve ones objectives.
It is therefore our responsibility to build mechanisms in a collaborative way to ensure that children are not used as soldiers in armed conflict, for there can be no worse crime against humanity than abuse, and exploitation of our own children.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Botswana is committed to defending Human Rights and Democratic Development. As you may all be aware, Botswana is signatory to a number of International and Regional Conventions, Treaties and Protocols on Human Rights and the Rights of the Child. Botswana has acceded and ratified a number of Conventions on the Rights of the Child such as; the Convention on the Rights of the Child (14th March1995), the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (4th October 2004), the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of the Child (10th July 2001) to mention just but a few. Consequently, the Parliament of Botswana passed the Children’s Act in 2009 to domesticate these Conventions.
Although Botswana has never had the problem of child soldiers, and has never experienced armed conflict, we believe it is important to participate in this kind of dialogue and sensitize ourselves of the dangers of such practices.
The values and principles of democracy and good governance are part of our culture, as I said somewhere, it is like swimming is to fish. This is not a result of ratification of all the Conventions already mentioned but a result of our country’s upholding the values and principles of democracy and good governance.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me thank once more the sponsors for choosing Botswana as a venue for this important seminar. Exchange views but always have the interest of the child at heart.
On this note, allow me to officially declare this seminar open. PULA!
*The Speech was delivered by Defence Minister Dikgakgamatso Seretse at the opening of University of Botswana Centre for Strategic Studies Executive seminar on security forces and child soldiers