African countries should renew their commitment and ensure that wars and armed conflicts in cities and elsewhere are minimised if the continent is to develop faster.
The call was made yesterday during a regional conference in Kigali to discuss the challenges and humanitarian consequences of a growing phenomenon of urban armed conflict around the globe.
The conference was organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) under the theme, “War in Cities, An African Perspective.”
It brought together national and regional practitioners and experts from the humanitarian, academic, diplomatic, and military communities to share experience and views on the issue of urban conflicts.
While the most intensive urban conflicts have been taking place in the Middle East, Africa has also experienced a shift from rural to urban armed conflicts, a trend that is likely to continue given the growing urbanisation, officials said.
Focusing on African context, the conference took stock of past urban armed conflicts in African cities, reflected on their drivers and humanitarian implications and explored operational and policy responses adapted to the needs of people affected by such conflicts.
Pascal Cuttat, the head of International Committee of the Red Cross Delegation in Kigali, said considering the estimate that 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050, the conference aims to enhance global awareness about the issue of urban warfare and develop a reflection on how national and international actors should adopt a multidisciplinary approach to improve the conditions of the civilian populatio.
“Hostilities in armed conflicts are increasingly taking place in big and densely populated cities, posing serious legal, military and humanitarian challenges. African cities like Bangui, Juba or Mogadishu have been affected. There is urgent need to limit consequences for better protection of civilians,” he said
According to Adama Dieng, the UN secretary-general’s special adviser for prevention of genocide, preventing wars and armed conflicts not only requires state actors but also non-state actors even at individual level.
He said that unlike in the past, currently cases of suicide, explosive weapons among many others are increasing.
Dieng called on the African continent to embrace good governance to prevent conflicts which may lead to atrocities adding that this should only be possible once leaders shun vices of poor leadership, corruption among other issues.
Col Jill Rutaremara, the director of Rwanda Peace Academy, said failure to observe rules to distinguish combatants and non-combatants and unconventional use of civilians during armed conflict is one of the challenges affecting the African continent.
The City of Kigali was chosen to host the regional event because of its tremendous post-conflict reconstruction experience, 23 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and the country’s contribution to international peacekeeping operations to help secure cities affected by armed conflicts around the continent and the world, officials said.