By Sanna Camara
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 encourage child trafficking.
According to organisations that met in Banjul recently on the sidelines of the ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, led by the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO), child begging 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, child beggars are almost exclusively boys who study in ‘daaras’ (Wolof for Quranic schools) under Quranic teachers.
Concern for Gambia, Guinea, Mali too
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 memorisation.
The issue of child beggars, according to Mr Gaye Sowe, Secretary General of Institute of Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), is a concern not only for Senegal, but also its neighbours like Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Mali, where children face the same problems.
Sowe said it was apt for other CSOs to partner with RADDHO to solve the child begging issue through collaborative ideas. He informed the RADDHO team about the existence of African Children Charter Project (ACCP) which he said, would address the situation.
Trafficking across Senegal and Gambia
Couple of months ago, a case of trafficking of children had been uncovered by security agents at the Gambian-Senegal border transit point.
Described as “a shocking incident” by an eye witness, the discovery of three children hidden in sealed carton boxes trafficked from Cassamance, Southern Senegal, to its capital, Dakar.
The Senegalese Police while inspecting the car noticed one of the boxes containing “a moving thing” and had to alert the driver. When the owners unsealed the cartons, the content was three children, one of whom has already died.
“The other two suffocated. Each of the child’s mouth was sealed with tape,” the eyewitness said.
They however pass through the Gambia unnoticed before being finally intercepted at the Gambia- Senegal border called ‘poste Keur Ayub’ on the outskirts of Farafenni.
RADDHO’s secretary for external relations Mr. Sadikh Niass, described child begging as an act that is in “total violation of the rights of children.”
The need to stop child beggars in Senegal
Niass told fellow civil society activists that despite a decision passed by the concerned committee of African Commission to stop such acts, the situation is still remains unabated in Senegal, and its government has not done enough to stop it.
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.
A Gambian child rights activist said the case of the three children discovered in sealed boxes at the border is an indication that “we need to do more to combat trafficking in persons, especially our security forces need to be equipped to detect cases of trafficking.”