In seven days, 90 students and lecturers from 30 Law Schools based in Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were trained on ‘The Issue of Child-Soldiers in the Great Lakes Region: What Repressive Measures?’ on 9-15 December 2018 in Kigali. This training was organized by Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (iPeace), an organization that strives for sustainable peace in the African Great Lakes Region through human rights and good governance education, in partnership with its Geneva-based partner the Comité pour le Concours Grands Lacs (CCGL) with the aim to empower university youth and their lecturers with knowledge and skills in international humanitarian law and human rights.
In fact, it should be reminded that since 1990s the African Great Lakes Region is experiencing grave violations of Human Rights (HR) and recurrent disrespect of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL). These violations peaked to the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, innumerable cases of rape and other hateful crimes in the DRC and Burundi, and massive child conscription in Lord Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda without overlooking the bloody post-electoral crisis in Kenya in 2008. While it is worth praising the efforts done by the international community in preventing and punishing these crimes, it is obvious that the principal responsibility in this matter lies on the shoulders of the States where these crimes are committed. In terms of repression, this responsibility involves the enactment of adequate laws, but above all the availability of competent and well-trained judicial personnel. Yet most of universities in the Great Lakes Region do not provide relevant curriculum to address this issue. Only a handful of universities offer some hours for IHL and/or HR law courses. Often students and their lecturers do not have enough time to carry out extensive research or to discuss cases involving violations similar to what happens in the region. As the previous editions, the 6th edition of the Great Lakes regional Training Programme in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights intended to bridge this gap.
The activities of the training were threefold. First students were involved in a 3-month intensive research on questions raised by the fictional case. This year’s case was about post-electoral crisis that degenerated into a civil war against the background of constitutional term manipulations by Mrs. Diogo Magni, president of the fictitious Republic of Zamaland. During the civil war both the army and rebel groups were accused of recruiting under-age persons to face war casualties as well as attacking civilians and other protected facilities such as hospitals, places of worship, etc. Students’ task was to understand and analyse the case to qualify these violations in order to establish responsibilities and to suggest the best applicable legal instruments.
Secondly, students were involved in a moot court competition where teams representing each of the universities faced two others successively as the prosecution team and the defence team. The bench was composed of experts – mainly university professors and practitioners - in IHL and/or Human Rights. The aim of the moot court competition was to strengthen students oral and pleading skills to prepare them to their future lawyering profession. The moot court competition was conducted in two tracks. The English track comprised University of Nairobi, Moi University, Kenyatta University, Strathmore University from Kenya; Makerere University, Bishop Stuart University, Kampala International University, and Nkumba University from Uganda; University of Dar-es-salaam, Muslim University of Morogoro, Mzumbe University, and Ruaha Catholic University from Tanzania; and University of Rwanda and University of Kigali from Rwanda. The French track featured Université de Kinshasa, Université de Mbujimayi, Université de Kindu, Université de Kisangani, Université Mariste du Congo, Université Officielle de Bukavu, Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs and Université de Goma from DR Congo, as well as Université du Burundi, Université du Lac Tanganyika, Université Lumiere de Bujumbura (Kinindo Campus), Université Lumiere de Bujumbura (Mutanga Campus), and Université de Ngozi from Burundi.
Moi University won the English track after a fierce final against the University of Rwanda. On the other hand, Université de Goma won the French track vis-à-vis the Université de Kinshasa.
Thirdly, participants attended various workshops and panel discussions addressing topical issues related to international humanitarian law and human rights. One of the biggest events this year was the international conference organized on 10 December 2018 in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. About 160 researchers, students, policy-makers, CSO representatives and practitioners discussed the implementation of this important instrument 70 years after its adoption in Paris in 1948.
Overall, the activities were organized in a way that allows students to interact as much as possible to learn about others coming from different countries. In addition to networking activities, all participants visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial as a way to understand the consequences of a heinous crime such as genocide. As fostering social cohesion is one of the pillars of this training, participants joined the Great Lakes Network that currently gathers 357 alumni of the programme composed of students, lecturers and international experts who have participated in in any of the editions of the Great Lakes Regional Training Programme in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights since 2013.
Left to right: Mr. Paulin Muhozi (Country Director of iPeace - Rwanda), Mr. Chris Mburu (Senior Human Rights Offiecr - OHCHR), Dr. Irinel Cocos (Chief of Party - USAID-DIU), Dr. Aimé Karimunda (President - Court of Appeal), Mrs. Madeleine Nirere (Chairperson - National Human Rights Commission) and Mr. Eugene Anangwe (Moderator) during one of the panels.
The 6th edition was supported by the German Cooperation (GIZ Rights-Based Program), the République et Canton de Genève, Commune Plan-les-Ouates, USAID, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Société Quebecoise de Droit International, International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The 7th edition will take place on 8-14 December 2019.
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