UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
AFRICA: ICRC launches public debate on rules of war
NAIROBI, 19 March (IRIN) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Friday launched a public debate in Nairobi on rules of war and upholding the Geneva Conventions in Africa, a continent wracked by civil war and conflict. Despite many legal instruments in place, the conditions of victims of war, the nature of conflicts and their impact has moved from bad to worse, ICRC observed.
"Things are getting out of hand, there is a major problem and it has come to a point when ICRC is saying enough is enough because even wars have limits," ICRC's head of regional delegation Vincent Nicod told journalists. In many war contexts, the International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) are ignored and, far from protecting the victims of the conflict, they do not even protect the humanitarian community and its material resources, he said.
ICRC faces challenges of gaining access to victims and that of ensuring respect for the Geneva Conventions. Besides, ICRC says conflicts today are unpredictable, tend to expand and engulf whole regions, drag on with no prospect of settlement, and can be reactivated posing yet another hurdle.
Through such debates, ICRC hopes to uphold the Conventions in Africa amid ethnic and anarchic conflicts, sometimes waged by child soldiers. The debates will cover how to deal with genocide, deliberate attacks on refugee camps, massive population displacements, indiscriminate bombardment of civilian targets, and large scale massacres of vulnerable categories of people.
"We have to build a bridge between the Geneva Conventions and local humanitarian traditions, specifically in this region," Nicod said. "ICRC only has a moral authority and the convincing power. It does not have the mandate to enforce or make sure the rules are implemented."
In its desire to give victims, leaders and actors in war a voice, ICRC teams are currently holding consultations with these categories of people in South Africa, Nigeria, Somalia, Bosnia and the Philippines to hear "what they really want". "These countries were chosen on the basis that they had had an active conflict or that they have an ongoing war. Considerations were also made on the security and feasibility of holding such consultations," ICRC official Tony Burgener said.
In each country where ICRC has a delegation, it will carry out activities with universities, military personnel, lawyers, media practitioners, hold exhibitions, use celebrities and victims and actors in war in television spots as it counts down to marking the Geneva Conventions' 50th anniversary this August.
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 17:18:06 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: AFRICA: ICRC launches public debate on rules of war 
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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