Moi University, Kenya, has won a moot court competition on international humanitarian law (IHL) that took place from 24 November to 2 December 2012 in Arusha, Tanzania. Thirty-six students from nine African countries took part in the contest organized by the ICRC.
This 12th edition of the moot court, called the "all Africa international humanitarian law competition", is one of the many initiatives taken by the ICRC to raise awareness of that body of law. "The participants' knowledge was challenged on subjects of humanitarian law and action as they were placed in fictional conflict scenarios where they were required to play the roles of the various parties and demonstrate their legal knowledge and debating skills," said Prof. Umesh Kadam, the ICRC's regional legal advisor.
For example in one of the role-plays, the students played the roles of three ICRC delegates in a conflict situation where they were expected to meet armed group leaders to discuss the challenges they were facing in carrying out their humanitarian work. "In this type of scenario, the students were expected to raise some of the violations of IHL committed by the combatants and basically convince them to change their behaviour in conformity with their obligations under the law", explained Mr Kadam.
This year's IHL moot court competition brought together 36 undergraduate students from Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe from 24 November to 2 December 2012. The students were provided with an opportunity to experience a real courtroom as the final round of the competition was held at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Saturday, 1 December 2012. "It was quite a surprise for the finalists who had the honour of presenting their summons before the president of the tribunal, judge Vagn Jonson, who along with four other judges presided over the final round," observed Mr Kadam. Staff of the ICRC and the ICTR gave lectures on IHL as well as judging the various rounds of the competition.
"It makes IHL more realistic"
The competition was stiff between Moi University, University of Abuja, Uganda Christian University and the University of Zimbabwe, which had made it to the semi-finals. However, only the teams from Uganda Christian University and Moi University made it to the final round.
Winners in other categories were Uganda's Jonathan Kiwana, who was awarded Best Speaker overall. In the preliminary rounds, Dorothy Pasipanodya from Zimbabwe was awarded Best Speaker and the Henry Dunant award went to the Catholic University of Kenya.
"The moot court experience made IHL more realistic by showing us it applies in real life and that made us understand how it complements other branches of law," said Dorothy Pasipanodya, after the award ceremony.
The competition gave the students a unique experience combining tutorial and multicultural sessions where students sang and dressed in their cultural attire, in addition to the competitive rounds. "The experience has been amazing. We have interacted with people from different African countries. It has been more than a competition but also a learning experience on IHL," said Chukwu from the University of Abuja in Nigeria.
"The competition generates a lot of interest among young law students in Africa," concluded Prof. Umesh Kadam, the ICRC's regional legal advisor. "This often inspires them to pursue a career in international law." Since its inception in 2001, more than 360 students from different African universities have taken part in the competition.