Students from the University of Dodoma emerged winner of the 21st All Africa International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Competition hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Nairobi Regional Delegation in Arusha, Tanzania.
Participating universities included the University of Uyo, Strathmore Law School, University of Rwanda, Midlands State University, Great Zimbabwe University, Cavendish University, University of Dodoma, University of Juba, and the University of Hargeisa.
In the final round that took place in the courtroom of the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) - Arusha Branch, the students, while showcasing their knowledge of IHL, put up a spirited fight in arguing for the prosecution and defense to a bench consisting of legal experts from the ICRC, IRMTC, and African Court of Human and People's Rights (ACHPR). The winning team members were Gidius Kato, Juliana Nyangweso, and Victor Masimo, while Kanyua Waweru, Fiona Mwaura and Melissa Ikawa from Strathmore university were runners-up.
This will remain one of the highlights of our lives, and it's an unforgettable experience. Being part of this competition gave us a great experience and further acted as a catalyst to want to learn more about IHL.
Victor Masimo, law student at the University of Dodoma expressed his excitement about winning this year's edition.
Melissa Ikawa, a student from Strathmore University was named the best oralist in the final round, while Anyaak Marial Jacob Mayak of the University of Juba was named the best oralist in the preliminary rounds.
Cavendish University was awarded the Henry Dunant Prize for the team that has best exemplified the ideals of the Red Cross Movement founder. These are values such as compassion, humanity and empathy. This award recognizes fair play, good spirit and attitude.
To win, a team must not only present the best legal arguments but also perform the most imaginative yet realistic role play. While winning teams receive some recognition, the most valuable prize is the knowledge they acquire in the week-long training.
Hillary Kiboro, legal advisor at the ICRC and a judge at different stages of the competition.
This competition has existed for 21 years and educates the next generation of leaders, future policymakers, and legal professionals in the doctrines of IHL and its implementation. The students study IHL practice, while strengthening their skills in legal research and advocacy critical for the legal profession.
I enjoyed seeing fellow young people passionate about not only the law, but what works between the law and its practicability. Finding the balance between law and practicability has been my highlight in this competition.
Aheebwa Rogers, law student at Cavendish University Uganda
The students participate in a series of lectures each morning that focus on core tenets of IHL and contemporary challenges. These training sessions cover the classification of armed conflicts, the interplay between International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and IHL, detention in armed conflict, counterterrorism, humanitarian access, and elements of international crimes. In the afternoon, students participate in scenarios where they are challenged through role play by putting IHL principles into action.
The goal of the competition is to teach IHL practically; to demonstrate how IHL principles, rules, and doctrines are applied in real-world situations; hence, participants are given hypothetical but realistic situations in which they must demonstrate their legal knowledge and persuasive abilities.
I am curious about how this moot and meeting different people will contribute to my future and how I will use it to propel my career.
Amal Abdillaahi Abdi, law student at the University of Hargeisa
For the ICRC, the competition not only serves as a dissemination point for the participating students, but helps encourage IHL teaching and research in academic institutions across Africa. The competition provides motivation for students and teachers alike to go the extra mile in IHL education; and alumni of the competition are often motivated to continue with this education. From our 2020 survey of past participants in IHL competitions in Africa (English language), we understand that alumni of these competitions go into different professional fields including the academia, government, private practice, International Organizations, Non-governmental Organizations and the military. The majority of alumni surveyed indicated that they still engage with IHL as part of their professional work.
As an alumni and previous winner of the competition in 2013 it was great to see and interact with the participants from across several countries in Africa, catch up with fellow alumnae present and the great team of organisers. Excellent work to the ICRC for keeping on and growing the competition even bigger.
Ribin Ogwani, Partner at Ashitiva Advocates LLP
The ICRC also appreciates the platform this competition provides to work with other institutions engaged in IHL implementation. The competition benefits from the support from institutions providing judges and expert lecturers, including the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (including the Office of the Prosecutor), the African Court on Human and People's Rights and the Tanzania Red Cross Society.
The ICRC's work with students is part of our broader work with the academic community in Kenya and the region. We work with academics to encourage research and support teaching in IHL. For example, the ICRC hosted the Eastern Africa roundtable for senior IHL academics this year. As part of this event, the University of Nairobi launched the first volume of its new journal, the Eastern Africa Journal on International Humanitarian Law. The ICRC is pleased to celebrate and support this initiative as providing an important platform for publishing IHL research and ideas from eastern Africa.
Article written by: Josiah Karanja Mburu/ICRC