Kenyatta University wins 20th edition of All Africa competition on IHL
In a final debate round, the students showcased their knowledge of international criminal law, arguing for and against the prosecution for war crimes of a fictional character before a judging panel consisting of ICRC legal experts and invited judges. The winning team members were Raphael Gitau and Gladys Nyangweso from Kenyatta University.
Participating teams came from Kenyatta University (Kenya), University of Dodoma (Tanzania), Kampala International University (Uganda), Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife (Nigeria), Kigali Independent University (Rwanda), Bahir-dar University (Ethiopia) and the University of Juba (South Sudan). These students were sponsored to participate, after winning national IHL competitions in their respective countries. Each team fielded two participants for the competition, who are undergraduate law students.
The judges were really satisfied with the standard of the grand final. "The students tactfully debated the legal classification of the situation and the principles governing the way that force can lawfully be used in times of armed conflicts. In particular we enjoyed robust legal arguments in relation to the principle of proportionality, and also command responsibility," observed Jemma Arman, legal advisor at the ICRC. She added that the students are a credit to their institutions, and demonstrate the strength of international humanitarian law teaching in institutions across Africa.
This competition aims to increase awareness and interest in IHL in academic institutions across Africa; foster IHL research Initiatives and develop a generation of IHL conscious persons. The students participate in a series of lectures each morning, and in the afternoon participate in scenarios where they are challenged through role play to put IHL into action. Students are also rewarded for good ethics, with the Henry Dunant prize being awarded to the team that best displays compassion, humanity and empathy.
This year's competition is unique in that it is also the 20th competition since its inception. A number of the lecturers made presentations and the judging panel was made up of former participants themselves, who have graduated and progressed with their legal careers but remain committed to IHL. The All Africa IHL competition has a number of high-profile alumni who have gone on to work for humanitarian organizations, to teach law, engage in private practice or are in the forefront of fighting for human rights.
In 2020, the ICRC undertook a survey of past participants of the ICRC's English-speaking IHL competitions in Africa including the All Africa IHL competition. The results provide encouragement on the value of the competitions. For example, 80% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the competition influenced their studies thereafter; and 70% of surveyed participants indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that the IHL competition influenced their career paths. We also find that past participants remain engaged in IHL matters: 56% of surveyed participants indicated that they are still engaged in IHL matters, and 26% of respondents indicated that they "usually" or "frequently" have engaged in IHL activities including the promotion, implementation of IHL and/or related fields. The full report of the survey data can be accessed below.
The ICRC's work with students is part of our wider work with the academic community in Kenya and in the region generally. We work with academics to encourage research and support teaching in IHL. On 9th November, the ICRC office in Nairobi signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Nairobi to establish an online IHL journal. ICRC's support for this journal is in line with its desire to support diverse IHL discussions. The signing ceremony for the MoU took place in the presence of leading academics including the immediate former Attorney General of Kenya, Professor Githu Muigai and Retired Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch who will sit on the editorial board of the journal.