The issue of child beggars in Senegal, locally called “Almud’ or ‘Talibeh’, has become a worrying subject for African civil society organisations as it is said to deny children to education, healthy life as well as encouraging child trafficking.

According to organisations that met in Banjul last week on the sidelines of the ordinary session of the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights, led by the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO), such acts against the children contravenes articles 4, 7, 5, 12, 14, 15, and 21 of the African Charter on Rights and Welfare of the Child.

Aged between five to fifteen years, these children are almost exclusively boys who study in ‘daaras’ (Wolof for Quranic schools) under Quranic teachers.  Most of these schools do not charge the students for their studies, food or accommodation.  Instead, the children are compelled to spend several hours each day begging in the street, on top of several other hours of learning the Quran by memorization.

RADDHO, a Non-Governmental, non-partisan and secular organization established and operating from Dakar since 1990, met other human rights institutions to “seek for reinforcement of ideas and recommendations to make a stop to the trend of child begging in Senegal.”

RADDHO enjoys a Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the human rights arm of the African Union.

The organisation’s secretary for external relations Mr. Sadikh Niass, described child begging as an act that is in “total violation of the rights of children.”

Niass told fellow civil society activists that despite a decision passed by the concerned committee of African Commission to stop such act, the situation is still remains unabated in Senegal, and its government has not done enough to stop it.

“The committee prefers local remedies to the situation but the international law is preferable to the situation when the local remedies are inefficient,” Niass told colleagues.

Among such recommendations include the return of such children back to their families; that international organisations should facilitate their union with families; that they should be educated, that the state of Senegal to ensure all such religious learning places comply with the proper standard or be closed.

These recommendations are meant to stop child trafficking and impunity, RADDHO said, noting that such enforcement of decisions should involve stakeholders such as marabouts, teachers, police and that the government of Senegal was urged to submit report on the situation.

Madam Mame Couna Thioye, Coordinator at the Department of Women and Children Unit of RADDHO, said her organization decided to step in the matter “because the issue of child begging in Senegal is becoming a big phenomenon.’

She said this begging is having a big impact on children’s abilities and described these issues as ‘frightening’.

In response to these submissions, and giving some guidelines on litigation procedures, Mr Gaye Sowe, Secretary General of Institute of Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) informed the RADDHO team the existence of African Children Charter Project (ACCP) which he said, would address the situation.

Sowe said his office has two cases similar to the issue which are pending at the committee involving Malawi and Cameroon.

“In Malawi, we are challenging the law on definition of a child as child is considered from 16 of age which is a violation while private actor raped a child in Cameroon. It is our responsibility as CSOs to change such situations,” he said.

The issue accoding to Mr Sowe is a concern not only for Senegal, but also its neighbours as children from the Gambia, Mali and Guinea Bissau are all part of it, hence it was apt for other CSOs to partner with RADDHO to solve the issue through collaborative ideas.