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Promotion of international humanitarian law through cooperation between the ICRC and the African Union

  • Churchill Ewumbue-Monono and Carlo von Flüe

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1 The ICRC has been mandated by the international community of nations through the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 8 June 1977, and in Article 5.4 (a) of the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, to develop and disseminate international humanitarian law.

2 See Chopard, Jean-Luc, “Dissemination of international humanitarian law to diplomats and international officials”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 77, No. 306, 1995 pp. 355357. By the late 1990s, the ICRC had initiated similar dissemination programmes for diplomats and officials of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU), the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the League of Arab States (LAS) the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and sub-regional organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). To facilitate dissemination of international humanitarian law in diplomatic circles, the ICRC signed cooperation agreements with these international organizations granting it the status of permanent observer or standing invitee, such as those inter alia with the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) (February 1981), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) (November 1989), the United Nations (October 1990), the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (April 1992), the Organization of African Unity (OAU) (May 1992), the EU (May 1993), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) (February 1994), the Organization of American States (OAS) (May 1996), and the League of Arab States (LAS) (November 1999), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) (1993) and the World Health Organization (WHO) (April 1995). See Escorihuela, Alejandro Lorite, “Le Comité International de la Croix-Rouge comme organisation sui generis? Remarques sur la personnalité juridique internationale du CICR”, Revue generate de droit international public, Vol. 105, No. 3, 2001, pp. 598602. In addition, the ICRC opened permanent missions or delegations accredited to these organizations such as those in New York to the UN, in Brussels to the EU, in Cairo to the League of Arab States, and in Addis Ababa to the OAU, now the AU.

3 See Haroff-Tavel, Marion, “Promoting norms to limit violence in crisis situations: Challenges, strategies and alliances”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 80, No. 322, 1998, p. 19.

4 ICRC, “‘Avenir’ study: Strategic content”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 79, No. 321, 1997.

5 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and Arab Maghreb Union (AMU).

6 See Ewumbue-Monono, Churchill, “Promoting humanitarian public diplomacy in Africa: A study often years of the ICRC's cooperation with the OAU in disseminating international humanitarian law in the Addis Ababa African diplomatic community 1992–2002”, Center for Research on Democracy and Development in Africa (CEREDDA) Publishers, Buea (Cameroon), 2003.

7 See the Cooperation Agreement between the Organization of African Unity and the International Committee of the Red Cross, signed by Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim (OAU) and President Cornelio Sommaruga (ICRC) at Geneva on 4 May 1992, published in Ewumbue-Monono, op.cit. (note 6), Annex 7, pp. 104–107.

8 Christoph Harnisch, ICRC Delegate-General for Africa.

9 See Berger, Jean-François, “The OAU on the humanitarian path”, Red Cross, Red Crescent, No. 3, 2001, p. 25.

10 See OAU Decision (CM/Dec. 388 (LXVII)) of the Council of Ministers in the Report of the Commission of Twenty on the Situation of Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons in Africa, adopted by the Sixty-Seventh Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers, Addis Ababa, 23–27 February 1998, OAU Doc. CM/2038 (LXVII).

11 Proceedings of the Fourth OAU-ICRC Seminar for the ambassadors accredited to the OAU,Addis Ababa,29–30 April 1997, p. 10.

12 Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) is an educational programme for adolescents that was developed in 1999 by the ICRC in close association with the Educational Development Center Inc. (ECD) and with the active participation of 20 countries, including 7 from Africa, namely Burundi, Djibouti, Egypt, Liberia, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa. The objective of the programme is to introduce adolescents to the basic rules and principles of international humanitarian law as the law intended to protect victims of armed conflict and restrict the means and methods of warfare. In 2003, nineteen African countries embarked on the process of integration or began implementing the programme in close association with education authorities.

13 See Report of the SADC Regional Seminar on the Decade of Education in Africa, Maputo, 12–15 March 2002, OAU/DEC/SA/Report/2002, p. 20.

14 For example, the Sixth Joint OAU/ICRC Seminar on international humanitarian law, entitled “Conflicts and Final Aim of Humanitarian Actions in the 21st Century”, Addis Ababa, 15–16 May 2000, and the Joint OAUICRC Roundtable on women in armed conflict, Addis Ababa, 8 March 2001.

15 See e.g. Resolution on the Proposed Cooperation Agreement between the Organization of African Unity and the International Committee of the Red Cross (CM/ Res. 1380 (LV)), adopted by the Fifty-fifth Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers, Addis Ababa, 24–28 February 1992; Resolution on Respect for International Humanitarian Law and Support for International Humanitarian Law and Support for Humanitarian Action in Armed Conflicts (CM/ Res.1526 (LX)), adopted by the Sixtieth Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers, Tunis, 6–11 June 1994.

16 See e.g. African Parliamentary Conference on International Humanitarian Law for the Protection of Civilians during Armed Conflict, Niamey, 16–18 February 2002; Decision on the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (ASS/AU/Dec.2 (I) Doc. AHG/234 (XXXVIII)), adopted by the Second Ordinary Session of the African Union, Maputo, 10–12 July 2003; Bay, Grand(Mauritius) Declaration, and Plan of Action,adopted by the First OAU Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Africa,Grand Bay,12 16 April 1999.

17 See, in the Proceedings of the Seventh Joint OAU-ICRC Seminar,the Brainstorming Day on the subject “The Constitutive Act of the African Union and the Challenges of the International Humanitarian Law”,Addis Ababa,7 May 2002, p. 52.

18 A more recent example is the 2003 Linas-Marcoussis Agreement on Côte d'lvoire, where the AU also sent a representative. The ICRC was also invited to be present as an observer at the whole negotiation process in Paris. Another interesting example being the 2003 Peace Agreement between the Government of Liberia, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and the political parties, in particular:

Part Five, Article X: “All Parties shall provide the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other relevant national and international agencies with information regarding their prisoners of war, abductees or persons detained because of the war, to enable the ICRC (…) to visit them (…).”

Part Five, Article XI: “The Parties call on the ICRC and such other relevant national and international agencies to give all the necessary assistance to the released persons, (…).”

Part Seven, Article XV; “International Humanitarian Law – The Parties undertake to respect as well as encourage the Liberian populace to also respect the principles and rules of international humanitarian law in post-conflict Liberia.”

UN Doc. S/2003/850 of 29 August 2003 – Annex to the letter dated 27 August 2003 from the Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council: Peace Agreement between the Government of Liberia, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia and the political parties.

19 In February 2003 the ICRC organized an international conference in Geneva and brought together experts from about 90 countries (including some from African countries) in a bid to draw attention to the largely forgotten ordeal of thousands of families worldwide that simply do not know what has happened to a loved one.

20 By September 2003, 46 AU member States had ratified the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction (also known as the Ottawa Convention), 3 AU member States (Burundi, Ethiopia and Sudan) had only signed it and 4 AU member States (Egypt, Libya, SADR and Somalia) had neither signed nor ratified it. See also ICRC website <http://www.icrc.org> or <http://www.cicr.org>.

21 Highlighting the importance of the Ottawa Convention for the continent, Africa will host the international First Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention, which will be held in Nairobi (Kenya) at the end of 2004.

22 Between 1994 and 1999, 10 African States became party to the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), of 8 June 1977, 10 African States became party to the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), of 8 June 1977, and 6 African States became party to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, of 10 October 1980.

23 See Ewumbue-Monono, op. cit, (note 6), pp. 75–76.

24 See Proceedings of the Seventh Joint OAU-ICRC Seminar, the Brainstorming Day, op. cit, (note 17), p. 52.

25 This process included the Algiers Summit of July 1999 calling for a review of the OAU Charter, the 4th Extraordinary Summit in Sirte in September 1999, which called for the creation of the African Union, the Lome Summit of July 2000 which adopted the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the Solemn Declaration on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).the 5th Extraordinary Summit of March 2001 in Sirte which decided on the creation of the African Union, the Lusaka Summit of July 2001 prescribing a one-year transition period, the Durban Summit of July 2002 prescribing an interim period of another year, and the Maputo Summit of July 2003 which elected the first Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and seven of the eight Commissioners of the Union, as well as endorsing its various structures. See also Keita, Al-Mamoun Baba Lamina, L'Union Africaine, Ressorts Historiques et Perspectives (Sécurité, Paix et Développement), Bamako (Mali), 2002, pp. 218295.

26 See Seventh joint OAU-ICRC Seminar, the Brainstorming Day, op. cit. (note 17).

27 See Draft Framework for a Common African Defence and Security Policy, AU Document EX/EX/CL/2 (III), Sun City (South Africa), 21–25 May 2003, p. 8.

28 See Policy Framework for the Establishment of the African Stand-by Force and Military Committee, AU Document EXP/ASF-MSC/2(1), Addis Ababa, 12–14 May 2003, p. 42.

29 See the Report on the implementation of the Grand Bay (Mauritius) Declaration and Plan of Action, AU Document MIN/CONF/HRA/2 (II) Rev. II - Second Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Africa, Kigali (Rwanda), 5–9 May 2003. After discussions it was decided that this conference has to be considered “the First” and not “the Second”.

30 Ibid., pp. 8–9, paras 18–20:

“Implementation of International Humanitarian Law

18. The Grand Bay Declaration appealed to the African States to observe international humanitarian law, especially to reinforce the protection of the civilian population, ensure that acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes are eradicated. The Plan of Action further required the African governments to give effect to international humanitarian law in their national legislation (paras 6, 11, 14). The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Additional Protocol of 1977, the Genocide Convention of 1948, as well as the 1951 UN Refugee Convention are the documents that stand together as a common statement on the basic obligations of States and their servants to respect humanity in warfare, to protect those not engaged in combat, and to provide asylum to those forced to flee their countries on the grounds of persecution as well address the issue of safety of humanitarian workers. However, the applicability of these documents in Africa remains problematic.

19. For the last two years, the AU General Secretariat, in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has organized various seminars/workshops for the AU Member States on the implementation of international humanitarian law. The latest such seminars (…)

20. Increasingly, African States have woefully failed to implement or adhere to the provisions of international humanitarian law. The fundamental problem in Africa is the failure to disseminate and implement this law. The proposal has been made on the adoption of an Additional African protocol to reinforce international humanitarian law to prove its relevance and compliance to the prevailing realities of the continent, i.e. ‘Afrtcanisation of international humanitarian law’. As a follow up to the Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action, the issue that needs to be addressed is how international humanitarian law can become an integral part of the African jurisprudence.”

31 It is worth noting that the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which was adopted on 11 July 1990 by the Assembly of Heads of State & Government and came into force on 29 November 1999, stipulates in Art. 22:

“Armed Conflicts

1. States Parties to this Charter shall undertake to respect and ensure respect for rules of the international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflicts, which affect the child.

2. (…).

3. States Parties to the present Charter shall, in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law, protect the civilian population in armed conflicts and shall take all feasible measures to ensure the protection and care of children who are affected by armed conflicts. Such rules shall also apply to children in situations of internal armed conflicts, tension and strife.”

32 See Report of the Interim Chairman on the Second Meeting of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, AU Document Assembly/AU/9(II)), Maputo, 4–8 July 2003, p. 24.

33 See Art. 11 of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, adopted by the 2003 Summit in Maputo:

“Protection of Women in Armed Conflicts

1. States Parties undertake to respect and ensure respect for the rules of international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflict situations, which affect the population, particularly women.

2. States Parties shall, in accordance with the obligations incumbent upon them under the international humanitarian law, protect civilians including women, irrespective of the population to which they belong, in the event of armed conflict.

3. States Parties undertake to protect asylum seeking women, refugees, returnees and internally-displaced persons, against all forms of violence, rape and other forms of sexual exploitation, and to ensure that such acts are considered war crimes, genocide and/or crimes against humanity and that their perpetrators are brought to justice before a competent criminal jurisdiction.

4. States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure that no child, especially girls under 18 years of age, take a direct part in hostilities and that no child is recruited as a soldier.”

34 Report of the First AU Conference of African Ministers of Health, AU Document (CAMH/MIN/Rpt. (I) Rev. 1, p. 21.

35 See Report of the Interim Chairperson on the Revision of the 1968 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Executive Council, Third Ordinary Session, Maputo, 4–8 July 2003, AU Document EX/CL/50 (III) Rev. 1, pp.12–13:

“Revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Article XV. Military and Hostile Activities (New)

1. The Parties shall:

a) take every practical measure, during periods of armed conflict, to protect the environment against harm;

b) refrain from employing or threatening to employ methods or means of combat which are intended or my be expected to cause widespread, long-term, or severe harm to the environment and ensure that such means and methods of warfare are not developed, tested or transferred;

c) refrain from using the destruction or modification of the environment as a means of combat or reprisal;

d) undertake to restore and rehabilitate areas damaged in the course of armed conflicts.

2. The Parties shall cooperate to establish and further develop and implement rules and measures to protect the environment during armed conflicts.”

36 See “Building partnership for promoting peace and development in Africa”,report and main conclusions of the First OAU-Civil Society Conference,Addis Ababa,11–15 June 2001, pp. 138145 and 276–277.

37 See Report of the Permanent Representatives Committee on the proposed structure, human resource requirements, and conditions of service for the staff of the Commission of the African Union and their financial implications”, AU Document EXT/EX/CL/6(III). Sun City, 21–25 MaY 2003, pp. 9899.

38 Such as the OAU-UNHCR Special Conference in Conakry (2000), the Pan African Forum for Children in Cairo (April 2001) ICRC-OAU round tables (March and November 2001), the OAU Commission on Refugees Session (February 2002), the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (April 2002), the ICRCOAU Brainstorming Day (April 2002) and the Follow-up Meeting on the Comprehensive Implementation Plan (May 2002). The OAU and ICRC also cooperated in raising awareness, during the regional meetings of Ministers of Education in Yaounde (2000), Nairobi (2001) Tripoli and Maputo (2002) and the UNESCO Ministerial Conference of Education in Dar es Salaam (2002), of the ICRC's “Exploring Humanitarian Law” (EHL) programme as part of the African Education Decade. Respect for IHL was also expressed by the incorporation of its rules in the June 2000 Algiers Agreement on the Ethiopian-Eritrean War and the January 2002 Buergenstock Agreement on the Nuba Mountains between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

39 See ICRC-OAU (7 May 2002), op. cit. (note 18), p. 50.

40 Ibid., p. 50.

41 Such as the Political and Humanitarian Affairs Department and the Conflict Early Warning Network (CEWARN) in 1GAD; the Department of Operations, Peace-keeping, and Humanitarian Affairs (DOPHA) and the stand-by army ECOMOG in ECOWAS; the Multinational Force (FOMAC) and the early warning system (MARAC) in ECCAS; and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCO), the SADC Peace-keeping Center and the SADC Disaster Management Steering Center (SDMSC) in the Southern Africa region.

42 For instance, in February 2001 the ICRC and ECOWAS signed a Memorandum of Understanding whereby both organizations agreed “to co-operate closely and to consult each other regularly on matters of mutual interest”, see Ewumbue-Monono, op. cit. (note 6), p. 85.

43 See Report of the Interim Chairperson on the Situation of Refugees, Returnees, and Displaced Persons in Africa, AU Document EX/CL/44OIII), Maputo, 4–8 July 2003, p. 11.

44 The 1999 Algiers OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, for instance, included references to international humanitarian law. Indeed Art. 22, 1 reads: “Nothing in this Convention shall be interpreted as derogating from the general principles of international law, in particular the principles of international humanitarian law, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.”

45 African Parliamentary Conference on International Humanitarian Law for the Protection of Civilians during Armed Conflict – Final Declaration, Niamey, 18–20 February 2002, available at <http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/niamey02.htm>.

46 This code sets standards of behaviour; it is not about operational details, but seeks to maintain high standards of independence, effectiveness and impact to which disaster response aspires. Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's) during Disaster Relief Operations, adopted at the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, 3–7 December 1995, Conference document 95/C.II/2/1, Annex IV.

47 See Carbonnier, Gilles, “Corporate responsibility and humanitarian principles: What relations between the business and humanitarian worlds?”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 83, No. 844, 2001, pp. 947967.

48 See Ewumbue-Monono, op. cit. (note 6), p. 80.

49 See Ewumbue-Monono, op, cit. (note 6).

50 The ICRC organised in the course of 2003 five regional experts meetings (two of which in Africa) to improve compliance with international humanitarian law. These seminars took place in Cairo, Pretoria, Kuala Lumpur, Mexico City and Bruges (Belgium), with the main aim of generating debate on ways of operationalising common Article 1 to the Geneva Conventions, which obliges States Parties not only to avoid contributing themselves to violations of the law by belligerents, but also to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by the belligerents, therefore avoiding double standards and promoting a principle oriented approach. In Pretoria the seminar was organised with the support of the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs in June 2003. The report will be available in 2004. See Temba, ICRC Pretoria publication, No. 6, second quarter of the year 2003, Ref.: ISSN 1681-7958.

* Churchill Ewumbue-Monono, Minister plenipotentiary and Counsellor in Cameroon's Embassy in Addis Ababa, is also Consultant on Humanitarian Diplomacy to the ICRC Permanent Mission to the African Union. Carlo Von Flüe is currently Head of the ICRC Permanent Mission to the African Union and International Organisations in Africa in Addis Ababa.

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Promotion of international humanitarian law through cooperation between the ICRC and the African Union

  • Churchill Ewumbue-Monono and Carlo von Flüe

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