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The ICRC in the Horn of Africa – 2005 activities and prospects

25-05-2005 Feature

The impact of various conflicts, as well as post-conflict situations, in several countries stretching from Eritrea to Chad defines ICRC priorities in this region.


© ICRC / Pierre Abensur / ref sd-n-00221-11 
Sudan: A man and a boy wounded during an attack on their village in the Darfur region await medical treatment. Persistent security problems prevent the population from freely moving about and engaging in trade, and make agriculture all but impossible. The ICRC is stepping up its work to spare the victims of the conflict its worst effects. Darfur is becoming increasingly dependent on outside aid.
© ICRC / Marc Bleich / ref et-d-00330 
Ethiopia: An armed man stands with his family in front of their home. Ethiopia is suffering not only the effects of long-lasting internal tensions (aggravated by the abundant supply of small arms throughout the Horn of Africa) but has still not normalized relations with its neighbour Eritrea. Despite the peace agreement between the two and the presence of United Nations forces, tensions continue to run high.
© ICRC / Boris Heger / ref ke-e-00101 
Kenya: An exercise organized by the ICRC with police special forces. Kenya is facing a rising tide of violence on its territory and exercises such as this provide an opportunity to highlight the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights law which those bearing arms are obliged to respect.
© ICRC / Clive Sherley / ref so-d-00036-03 
Somalia: Children affected by flooding in the Juba valley. Though it receives little media attention, southern Somalia is racked by persistent violence. Lacking a government, the region receives no essential services. Regular natural disaster aggravates the plight of the residents, whose lives are already made very difficult by the fighting.
Political and tribal tensions, pervasive poverty, environmental fragility and resource-related tensions intensify these crises and affect the lives of tens of millions of people.

The ICRC has two priorities. First, in the context of armed conflict, to strive to ensure through dialogue and diplomacy, the respect of rules applicable to the conduct of hostilities by governments and all armed rebel movements. Second, to provide meaningful humanitarian assistance and protection to the populations that are directly exposed and affected by armed conflict or violence.

The people of Ethiopia and Eritrea continue to suffer from issues left over from the international armed conflict between them. Ethiopia experiences episodic violence in various areas such as the country's Somali region. In neighbouring Somalia, chronic conflict reminds us constantly of the country's recurrent emergencies related to violence, natural catastrophe and poverty. In southern Sudan, in spite of the recent peace agreement, there remain huge challenges directly related to 20 years of internal warfare.

Sudan's remote Darfur region is the theatre of a conflict that has generated a huge humanitarian crisis. The spillover effect into Chad is taking its toll on the basic well-being of the local population and Sudanese refugees. And though Kenya lives in peace, different areas of the country are suffering from bloody inter-tribal clashes.

Djibouti and Tanzania are at peace; a permanent dialogue exists with those countries related to humanitarian issues and international humanitarian law.

IHL has suffered histor ically from a lack of respect and has been trampled upon during various conflicts in this part of the world. Sudan is an example of a conflict where there are large-scale, serious and repeated violations of IHL. It is clear that the scale of today's conflict-related humanitarian problems in the Horn and East of Africa is connected to this phenomenon.

The ICRC will continue to work all over the region in its role as a strictly independent humanitarian player. It will operate to alleviate the human damage of IHL violations, while trying to work toward the prevention of these violations.

Success, however, depends on the will and capacity of those who use weapons and take the political and military decisions which would give life and reality to the notion that even wars have limits.