Kalidou Koulibaly: Senegal footballer signs up to defend the most vulnerable in armed conflicts


Captaining his country at the Africa Cup of Nations, the Senegalese international Kalidou Koulibaly has joined forces with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to produce a short film that seeks to raise awareness among the general public and weapon bearers of the rules of international humanitarian law.

The film, entitled Defenders, is aimed first of all at young weapon bearers and at raising their awareness of the fundamental rules of war, such as: civilians must never be targeted; steps must be taken to reduce the possible impact on military operations on women and children; enemy combatants who surrender must be spared.

“We know that football gives us a way to speak out loudly and clearly about important issues. Keeping children, young women and civilians safe is more important than anything else in Africa,” says Kalidou Koulibaly, referring to the ongoing armed conflicts in Africa.

According to the ICRC, there are currently more than 100 armed conflicts in the world, involving over 60 different states and 100 non-state armed groups. Several countries have multiple conflicts within their own borders and some actors are involved in several armed conflicts.

The number of armed conflicts in Africa has continued to increase. For example, since the early 2000s, the number of armed conflicts has doubled, rising from around 20 to more than 40. The ICRC estimates that around 83 million Africans are living in areas that are either totally or partially controlled by armed groups.

“Our dialogue with the authorities and weapon bearers is aimed mainly at preventing humanitarian issues and ensuring we have access to all victims of war and other violence so as to protect and assist them. We raise awareness of the rules of war that protect civilians in armed conflicts so that lives can be saved. Speaking about the rules using football terms, a game that has its own rules, gives us a way of reaching a much larger audience of people who are passionate about the sport,” says Patrick Youssef, the ICRC’s regional director for Africa.

The film is being released in the year of the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, and reflects the ICRC’s new institutional strategy, which places protection and international humanitarian law at the heart of its work.

“I’m proud to be able to tell this beautiful story and to continue to promote peace in the world and in Africa. I think that abiding by the rules of war, humanizing conflicts, enables people to live in greater safety. I hope that this is the path we’ll take in the future,” says Kalidou Koulibaly.

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