Kalidou Koulibaly on the set of

Footballer Kalidou Koulibaly teams up with ICRC to defend humanitarian law in Africa

The Senegalese international appears in "Defenders", the ICRC's latest audiovisual production, and takes aim at behavior that runs counter to the laws of war.
Video 24 January 2024 Senegal Côte d'Ivoire

The film begins in a makeshift tent: a poster of Kalidou Koulibaly, horns honking, armed men rushing to get out. Outside, the player himself, wearing a red soccer uniform, plants himself in front of the camera, before blurting out: "Keep it clean! No fouls!" He immediately disappears. Who was he talking to? No time to wonder if it was a dream or reality. The young gunmen jumped into the back of a pick-up truck.

" Think before you shoot! "

These first two scenes set the tone. We quickly realize that the perspective is that of a young combatant, somewhere in Africa. Then comes the chaos: gunfire, explosions, smoke... The enemy must be eliminated, but civilians are running in every direction, right in front of them. Shoot anyway? An opponent's rifle jams, he puts it down and raises his arms in the air. Kalidou Koulibaly intervenes again. "Careful! Think before you shoot", he tells the young fighter firmly. Between the latter and the fighter who puts down his weapon, a young woman appears, panicked, caught in the line of fire. The rifle lowers, the message is clear: surrendering fighters and civilians must be spared.


The title "Defenders" highlights the film's main awareness-raising message. Kalidou Koulibaly, himself a defender on the soccer pitch, concludes at the end: "In conflict, we must all defend the most vulnerable." He refers to international humanitarian law (IHL) without explicitly naming it.

Who are the real champions?

The film is aimed at a predominantly young, football-loving audience, particularly those who carry arms in Africa. To better reach them, the central idea is to convey the message of restraint in armed conflicts through expressions specific to soccer. Later in the film, Kalidou Koulibaly speaks to the young "hero", who understands the message better and better, and acts accordingly: "Champions are made when it really counts!", he tells him to stop a fellow soldier from attacking a young woman and her little brothers. And for having respected the rules, once the fight was over, he congratulated him as follows: " No foul, no red card! "

Professional footage of the shooting is available in our newsroom.

"We raise awareness of the rules protecting civilians in conflict so that lives can be saved," says Patrick Youssef, regional director for Africa at the ICRC. "Our dialogue with the authorities and arms bearers is essentially aimed at preventing humanitarian problems, facilitating our access to all victims of war or other situations of violence to assist and protect them."

The number of armed conflicts in Africa is constantly on the rise. Since the early 2000s, it has doubled from around 20 to over 40.

The film is being launched to coincide with the African Cup of Nations (CAN) in Côte d'Ivoire, at the end of January 2024. It also marks the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions and echoes the ICRC's new institutional strategy, which places protection and IHL at the heart of its action.