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AU and ICRC join fronts to strengthen efforts to protect civilians in armed conflicts on the continent

AU and ICRC join fronts to strengthen efforts to protect civilians in armed conflicts on the continent

Addis Ababa, 14 November 2011 – The African Union Commission (AUC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on 14 November 2011, converged at the headquarters of the AU Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, within the framework of their 11th Joint Biannual Seminar, holding under the theme: “The Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts and Other Situations of Violence in Africa”.

Organized by the Political Affairs Department of the AUC the seminar brought together participants from ICRC, the Civil Society organisations and Diplomatic Corps. During the opening ceremony, the Acting Director of Political Affairs, Mr. Mamadou Dia read the speech on behalf the Commissioner for Political Affairs of the AU, Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner. The speech underlined the significance of the seminar in the pursuit to understand the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) from the perspective of the African context and realities. The Commissioners’ statement further identified some key challenges for Africa including the role of the State in ensuring the protection of the rights of its citizens, emphasizing that “State actors constitute a major challenge to our quest to give full and comprehensive meaning to the implementation of the concept”. The statement finally called on the participants of the seminar to carefully interrogate the concept of protection of civilians with a view to further strengthen the capacity of the respective countries to meet its obligations under the continental legal framework and instruments.

Addressing the participants, Ms. Christine Beerli, Vice President of the ICRC, pointed out that despite the volume of policy statements, resolutions and dissemination of global information, the reality facing civilians in situations of conflict and violence remains grim. Expressing the concerns of the ICRC in relation to the protection of civilians, Ms. Beerli stated, “the reality is that civilians continue to be the main victims of armed conflicts, due to indiscriminate attacks or targeted violence”. She further added that the ICRC is committed to assisting the AUC by seconding a delegate to the Commission by providing support for the integration of IHL into the doctrine, education and training of troops, as well as the African Standby Force.

Other key speakers at the seminar included, Mr. Olabisi Dare, Head of the Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees and Displaced Persons Division of the Political Affairs Department of the AUC; Mr. Cheick A.T Camara, President of the AU PRC Sub-Committee on Refugees, Returnees, IDPs; Mr. Pierre Gentile, Head of Protection of Civilians Unit of the ICRC and Maj. Gen. Mugisha, AMISOM Force Commander.

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