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Zimbabwe: army training directors attend first-ever ICRC/SADC workshop

17-05-2007 News Release

For the first time ever, the ICRC and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) co-organized a workshop for directors of army training at the Regional Peacekeeping Centre (RPTC) in Harare. It was held from 7 to 11 May 2007.

 The following press release was issued by the ICRC in Harare on 11 May 2007  

The ICRC-sponsored workshop's main objective was to facilitate the integration of the law of armed conflict, also known as international humanitarian law (IHL), into the armed forces of SADC's member states. It also sought to take stock of the implementation levels of IHL within the respective armies and to look at ways of forging cooperation between the armies and ICRC.

Fourteen directors of army training from ten SADC member states participated in the workshop, which was officially opened by the Zimbabwe Defence Minister, Dr Sydney Sekeramayi. In his official ceremony closing remarks, SADC's director of the organ on politics, defence and security affairs, Mr Tanky Mothae, made an appeal to the ICRC to consider making the training programme an annual event.

The ICRC's head of delegation for Southern Africa, Mr Zoran Jovanovic, described the workshop as a success adding that " it is important to have the law of armed conflict being taught and integrated in times of peace. "

The participants described the workshop as unique and relevant, although divergent views were expressed about whom should attend. Most officers felt that it was right to invite the directors of training but others felt that army operational commanders should attend instead, since they are the ones who issue orders.

South African army Colonel Andrew Retief, one of the participants, said he found the programme a good tool for interaction. " It was a worthwhile programme where part icipants who had limited knowledge of IHL had a chance to learn and share experiences. What I particularly liked about this workshop is that it directly involved the implementers, " said Retief.

The commandant of RPTC, Colonel Gaudene Milanzi from Tanzania, was generally impressed by the ICRC-sponsored workshop. He pointed out the need for the programme to become an annual event saying it should go a long way in refreshing knowledge and implementation of the law of armed conflict.

" I am particularly happy that ICRC has managed to bring together people responsible for training for the first time within armies in the SADC region all in one go. I am convinced that the group will contribute meaningfully to the integration of IHL into their armed forces, because the training decision-making level has been targeted, " said colonel Milanzi.

Malawi Defence Forces Major General David Sefu said the workshop was a good platform for sharing ideas from the SADC region but he felt that it should be aimed at army operational commanders to enable integration of IHL to be effected at the very highest levels.

ICRC regional delegate to the armed forces for Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, Mr Andrew Carswell, who was the facilitator for the weeklong event, described the levels of cooperation from all participants as encouraging.

" The integration of the law of armed conflict must occur on a continuous basis for it to remain effective since military structures and senior officers change regularly, " said Carswell.

He concluded by supporting the call for an annual training programme at the SADC level by saying, " I am in favour of offering IHL training in the SADC context at regular intervals, although ultimately the goal is for the various national armed forces to take on this role themselves. "

 For further information, please contact:  

  Sébastien Brack, ICRC Harare, tel: +263 912 240960 or +263 912 731 520