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Tanzania - The Red Cross and 'Tanzanite' (RECAMP 3), a multinational peacekeeping exercise


In late February, the ICRC and the Tanzania Red Cross Society (TRCS) took part in the final stage of a multinational peacekeeping exercise in the Tanga region of Tanzania.'Tanzanite'was organised by France and Tanzania as part of the French government's RECAMP programme (Reinforcement of African Peacekeeping Capabilities) and involved soldiers from 15 African armed forces as well as military and civilian observers from countries across the world. The ICRC had previously also been involved in the planning of the exercise.

As part of the'Tanzanite'scenario, ICRC and TRCS teams on the ground carried out a range of typical Red Cross activities including family tracing programmes, relief distributions, detention visits and dissemination sessions for participating armed forces.

The'Tanzanite'exercise scenario involved a multinational battalion of peace keepers deploying in a fictitious country,'Blueland', destabilised by a civil war in neighbouring'Mauveland'. As part of the scenario refugees as well as armed rebels from'Mauveland'were arriving in'Blueland'. One of the tasks of the multinational battalion composed of soldiers from the participating African countries was to handle this influx.

 1. Why did the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Tanzania Red Cross Society (TRCS) take part in the 'Tanzanite' exercise?  

The ICRC and the TRCS considered this exercise an important opportunity to familiarise armed forces with the humanitarian activities of the Red Cross in conflict areas.'Tanzanite'helped to develop better understanding of the respective mandates of a humanitarian organisation such as the Red Cross and a multinational military mission. For the Red Cross, it is important that both sides develop a functioning working relationship without blurring the fundamental differences between military and humanitarian actors in conflict areas (see also questions 4. and 5. ).

The ICRC also saw'Tanzanite'as an opportunity to raise awareness of international humanitarian law (IHL) among the participating armed forces. This body of law, particularly the Geneva Conventions of 1949, was created to reduce human suffering at times of war. It protects those not or no longer taking part in the fighting i.e. civilians and wounded or detained combatants. IHL also limits the means and methods of combat, for example by outlawing the use of certain weapons such as land mines.

 2. What did ICRC / TRCS do as part of 'Tanzanite' in the Tanga region of Tanzania?  

  • At the Refugee Reception Centre set up by the participating armed forces as part of the exercise scenario, the Red Cross organised a family tracing service    staffed by volunteers who showed Red Cross activities to reunite families separated during conflict and the Red Cross family message service.

  • TRCS volunteers organised First Aid post s for'refugees'fleeing neighbouring Mauveland.

  • To demonstrate Red Cross relief assistance activities , the ICRC and TRCS carried out distributions of soap at schools, orphanages and other institutions in Tanga and the surrounding region. All in all, about 10 tonnes of soap were distributed. In addition to supporting charitable institutions, the idea was to integrate the relief distributions as much as possible into the'Tanzanite'exercise scenario.

  • Finally, the ICRC / TRCS carried out different information sessions on the Red Cross and on international humanitarian Law for participating armed forces.


 3. In what ways did the ICRC take part in the previous stages of 'Tanzanite'?  

The ICRC has been involved in the planning of the exercise since the early stages. In May 2001, it participated in a military-political seminar in Dar es Salaam during which different issues related to the organisation of multinational military missions were discussed. In November 2001, an ICRC armed forces delegate took part in a command post exercise for staff officers to advise participants on how to apply the provisions of international humanitarian law during multinational military missions.

 4. What is the ICRC's opinion concerning the role of multinational military forces in humanitarian operations?  

Since the end of the Cold War, multinational military forces have played a prominent role in conflict situations as diverse as Bosnia-Herzegovia and Kosovo, Sierra Leone or the Democratic Republic of Congo, and East Timor. Frequently the mandate of such forces has also included humanitarian task s, an aspect reflected in the set-up of the'Tanzanite'exercise.

 The ICRC is not, in principle, opposed to the military taking on humanitarian roles  . However, it believes that the main objective of multinational military missions should be to contribute to the resolution of conflicts and the restoration of security and public order. By contrast, a humanitarian organisation such as the ICRC focuses on saving the lives and protecting the human dignity of victims of armed conflict.

The ICRC cannot settle conflicts, an essentially political activity for which it has no mandate. In fact, it can only fulfil its role if its neutrality, impartiality and independence as a strictly humanitarian, non-political organisation are accepted by all conflict parties. This implies that the ICRC's activities are non-coercive i.e. they cannot be imposed by force. Therefore, the ICRC must maintain its independence of decision-making concerning its humanitarian actions . Otherwise, it may be perceived as part of a political and military intervention in a conflict situation which could compromise its ability to have access to all conflict victims in need.

 5. How does the ICRC co-operate with multinational military missions?  

The ICRC considers it essential to consult closely with multinational military missions, especially when both are present in the same area of operations. In this respect, the ICRC aims to promote the exchange of relevant information and to encourage multinational military missions to carry out their operations in strict accordance with international humanitarian law . The ICRC regularly discusses these issues with concerned political and military actors and institutions.

While the ICRC does not usually accept armed escorts , it welcomes any activity by military forces designed to create and maintain a safe environment for humanitarian action. The ICRC does not commonly use military resources or logistics unless in exceptional cases where they offer a clear advantage or where no civilian resources are available. In such situations, the ICRC will use military means provided this does not compromise its position as a neutral and impartial humanitarian organisation. 

Finally, the ICRC contributes to training exercises for multinational military forces such as'Tanzanite', especially where this offers an opportunity to promote knowledge of its humanitarian mandate and of international humanitarian law.