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SOCADEF Extends COVID-19 Temporary Ceasefire, Says Conflict Must Be Qualified

The Southern Cameroons Defense Force, SOCADEF, has extended a COVID-19 temporary ceasefire citing humanitarian reasons as the world including the Cameroons combat the pandemic. The extension which begins on April 12, 2020 is excepted to end on April 26, 2020, a statement from SOCADEF reads. The Commander-In-Chief of SOCADEF, Dr. Ebenzer Akwanga says he expects the extension would also give the International Committee of the Red Cross time to qualify the war in Southern Cameroons ( Ambazonia) as a Non International Armed Conflict, NIAC.

The Revolutionary High Command Council (REHCOCO), meeting today Wednesday, the 8th day of April, 2020, after taking stock of the Unilateral Ceasefire it declared on Sunday, the 29th day of March, 2020, and being satisfy of its adherence, therefore has provisionally ordered all combat units of SOCADEF operating within nine of the thirteen counties of Ambazonia under its control to continue to maintain positions with combat readiness to defend for an additional period of 14 days, beginning at 00 hours on Sunday, the 12th of April, 2020 to Sunday, the 26th of April, 2020 in order to permit additional international humanitarian preparation for COVID-19 prevention. SOCADEF acknowledges the recognition of its efforts by the United Nations, Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United States State Department and the International Committee of the Red Cross and understands classification of the Ambazonian conflict as a Non International Armed Conflict (NIAC) under international humanitarian law is important. NIAC classification will help guarantee all security and free movement for international monitors and for international humanitarian workers.

The Statement on April 10, also demands that the government of Cameroon respects the global ceasefire call by UN SG, Antonnio Guteres, “SOCADEFIANS and the leadership of the African People’s Liberation Movement (APLM) call upon the authorities and security forces of La République du Cameroun to likewise publicly affirm the call of the United Nations Secretary General. We continue to communicate with designated representatives of La République du Cameroun and the international community to ensure smooth implementation of the unilateral ceasefire in Ambazonia.”

Other Armed Non State Actors have said a ceasefire in the northwest and southwest regions, now preferred as Ambazonia, must start with the government withdrawing her troops and must be supervised by the international community.

The Non International Armed Conflict As Defined By The ICRC

Under Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, non-international armed conflicts are armed conflicts in which one or more non-State armed groups are involved. Depending on the situation, hostilities may occur between governmental armed forces and non-State armed groups or between such groups only. As the four Geneva Conventions have universally been ratified now, the requirement that the armed conflict must occur “in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties” has lost its importance in practice. Indeed, any armed conflict between governmental armed forces and armed groups or between such groups cannot but take place on the territory of one of the Parties to the Convention.
Furthermore, two requirements are necessary for such situations to be classified as non international armed conflicts:

– The hostilities must reach a minimum level of intensity. This may be the case, for example, when the hostilities are of a collective character or when the government is obliged to use military force against the insurgents, instead of mere police forces.

– Non-governmental groups involved in the conflict must be considered as “parties to the conflict”, meaning that they possess organized armed forces. This means for example that these forces have to be under a certain command structure and have the capacity to sustain military operations.

Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 develops and supplements common Article 3 without modifying its existing conditions of application, by introducing a requirement of territorial control. It provides that non-governmental parties must exercise such territorial control “as to enable them to carry out sustained and concerted military operations and to implement this Protocol”. Additional Protocol II expressly applies only to armed conflicts between State armed forces and dissident armed forces or other organised armed groups. Contrary to common Article 3, the Protocol does not apply to armed conflicts occurring only between non-State armed groups.

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