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The ICRC regional delegation in Yaoundé

19-04-2013 Overview

The ICRC regional delegation for Central Africa, based since 1992 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, promotes the implementation of international humanitarian law in Angola, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo and Sao Tome and Principe. ICRC staff also protect and help people displaced by violence, restore family links, visit detainees and foster the development of National Societies in the region.

Promoting international humanitarian law

The ICRC maintains an ongoing dialogue with the political authorities with a view to promoting international humanitarian law (IHL) and its implementation. As a result of these consultations and discussions with Cameroon's political authorities, breaches of IHL are now covered by the draft criminal code in French and English. Cameroon has also ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.  

As part of promoting IHL, the ICRC runs training sessions every year for the armed, security and police forces in the countries in the region, and for the Central African Multinational Force, based in Libreville.

The ICRC also promotes the fundamental principles of IHL among influential civil society representatives and organizes training sessions in universities. In Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo, the national IHL moot court competition is a chance for students from a range of universities and other higher education institutions to test their knowledge of this body of law and of humanitarian issues. The regional delegation in Yaoundé and the office in Brazzaville have documentation centres where students can consult IHL resources.

The ICRC works with subregional bodies such as the Economic Community of Central African States (based in Libreville), the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (based in Yaoundé), the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (based in Bangui), and the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (based in Libreville).

Visiting people deprived of their liberty

The ICRC visits places of detention in the countries in the region with the purpose of improving protection for security-related and particularly vulnerable detainees. It assesses their conditions of detention and treatment during its visits to facilities in Angola (Cabinda province), Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo. The ICRC then shares its findings and recommendations with the relevant authorities as part of an ongoing dialogue. The objective is to see measures taken to improve the conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees, in particular as regards judicial guarantees. In 2012, the ICRC and the Gabonese authorities assessed the conditions of detention in the country's prisons, with a particular focus on health matters. They then jointly drew up an action plan for improving the health situation in Gabon's detention facilities. The plan adopts a twofold approach: training health personnel in detention facilities, and developing practical solutions (through pilot projects) in two prisons selected by mutual agreement.

Restoring family links

One of the ICRC's priorities is to reunite families scattered in the wake of conflict or disaster. It does so by tracing missing persons and helping people get back in touch with their loved ones. Delegation staff have continued their efforts to restore family links, despite there being no new population movements in the region requiring specific ICRC action since the beginning of 2012. Work is ongoing to process tracing requests and deliver Red Cross messages, and two children were reunited with their families in this way.

The delegation also came to people's assistance when ammunition stockpiles exploded on 4 March 2012 in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. The ICRC sent staff to support the Congolese Red Cross's relief efforts and to work with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and Solidarity. They registered 82 unaccompanied children, 70 of whom were reunited with their parents in the three months following the disaster, while 75 of the 116 children reported missing were accounted for.

Monitoring the plight of undocumented migrants

A fact-finding mission was carried out in Angola's Lunda Norte province in December 2011 in order to assess the conditions and the treatment of undocumented migrants awaiting deportation. In May 2012 the ICRC opened an office in Dundo, the provincial capital. Staff there work closely with staff at the ICRC office in Kananga in Kasaï-Occidental province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, to identify children who become separated from their parents during the deportation process. Where possible, they reunite them with their parents. The ICRC also works closely with the Angolan authorities to ensure that the migrants' human rights and dignity are respected throughout the deportation process.

Providing relief

In 2012 the ICRC regional delegation for Central Africa, working with the Congolese Red Cross, provided assistance when ammunition stockpiles exploded on 4 March 2012 in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. 

In order to minimize the danger to local inhabitants, the ICRC swiftly deployed a team of explosive ordnance disposal experts to clear and secure the worst-affected areas in March and April 2012.

After being trained by the ICRC, 70 Congolese Red Cross volunteers conducted outreach work in the neighbourhoods contaminated by unexploded munitions. Their goal was to raise awareness of the dangers and of the measures and behaviour people should adopt to stay safe. The ICRC also provided counselling services for the Red Cross volunteers and morgue staff because of the risk of post-traumatic stress. Children separated from their parents in the wake of the explosion received ICRC aid in the form of clothing, food and other essentials.

To help health-care facilities in the vicinity of the blast site cope with the influx of patients, the ICRC and the Congolese Red Cross delivered enough medicines to three facilities to treat one thousand people for three months. The ICRC also assigned a forensic pathologist to the Brazzaville municipal morgue to train staff.

Cooperating with the National Societies

The ICRC works with National Societies in the region to build their operational capacity. The focus is on preparing for and responding to emergencies, restoring family links, and promoting international humanitarian law and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The ICRC regional delegation for Central Africa is based in Yaoundé. It oversees an ICRC mission in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea), and offices in Libreville (Gabon), Brazzaville (Republic of the Congo), and Luanda and Dundo (Angola). The ICRC has 55 staff members in the countries covered by the regional delegation.