Congo-Brazzaville: cartoons help promote international humanitarian law
Pool is a Congolese department regularly affected by armed violence. Now, secondary-school children here can study basic humanitarian principles using a tool specially designed for Africa. This report is from the ICRC’s Brazzaville-based communication delegate Wolde Saugeron.
22 December 2005. It’s party time at Moundogo Secondary School in Kinkala, one of the main towns in the department of Pool. There are speeches and a play in Lari, the language most widely-spoken in the department. And for ten children, there are prizes. The lucky recipients are the pupils who learned the most from the ICRC’s programme to promote humanitarian values.
The programme is based on “The battle of the villages”, a story in cartoon form produced by the ICRC’s regional delegation in Nairobi, Kenya. Back in October, 38 secondary school teachers from Kinkala, Mindouli and Kindamba underwent training in the use of the book as a teaching tool. In the weeks that followed, they passed on what they had learned to over 600 children. After a month, the children did a writ ten test.
The pupils seem to have understood and accepted the principles that the programme teaches. Davellia is at the younger end of secondary school. She says, “This book is useful because it gives good advice. We’ve learned that you mustn’t attack people who aren’t taking part in the conflict. They should use it in other schools as well.” Bioglady is in the year above and his point is that “arms bearers shouldn’t get involved in rape or looting. You can take prisoners, but you mustn’t kill them.”
As the ICRC’s Wolde Saugeron explains, “These children from Pool have been experiencing violence for years. It’s important to teach them basic humanitarian values, so they understand that even wars have limits.”
The ICRC’s mandate is to help and protect the victims of armed conflict. This includes taking preventive action to limit the effects of war. Every country and every culture has rules and traditions aimed at reducing the suffering that war causes. These rules have been written down in the form of “international humanitarian law” (IHL), also known as the “law of armed conflict.” IHL protects the victims of war, including women and children.
The children in Kinkala also watched a play written by the ICRC, Rapt à Mulunga , or “Abduction in Mulunga.” The play was performed by the Bissehissa company from Kinkala. It discusses the kind of things arms bearers should avoid and shows how the ICRC can protect civilians when breaches of IHL occur.
The ICRC launched its programme to promote humanitarian values in April 2004, with the agreement of the Pool education authority and the Congolese ministry of education. It may well be extended to other secondary schools in the department.
Comic book – English version
For further information, please contact:
Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron, communication delegate, ICRC Brazzaville
Tel. +242 553 04 40 or +242 81 12 08
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