Armed Conflict and the Environment: Perspectives from African Union Law

Authors C Kentaro, W Scholtz

ISSN: 2521-2583
Affiliations: None; Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, Department of Public Law and Jurisprudence, University of the Western Cape, South Africa and Director: RALHUS (
Source: South African Yearbook of International Law, 2014, p. 1 – 26


During armed conflict the environment suffers both as a result of deliberate damage as a strategy of war, as well as through collateral harm. The intersection between the jus in bello (international humanitarian law) (‘IHL’) and international environmental law (‘IEL’), with the aim of addressing environmental harm as a result of armed conflict, is a relatively recent development. It was traditionally believed that the laws of war and peacetime laws were mutually exclusive. For decades the African continent has suffered the effects of armed conflict disproportionately, which implies that so too has the natural environment in Africa suffered these effects disproportionately. The aim of this article is to make a two-fold contribution. First, it provides a summation of the protection afforded to the environment during armed conflict by IHL and IEL in order to illuminate the shortcomings of the latter. Secondly, it undertakes a comprehensive analysis of the African regional legal framework of environmental protection in relation to armed conflict. This will determine how regional law in Africa may serve to complement the international legal regime in order to strengthen the protection of the environment during armed conflict on the continent. Furthermore, this analysis may also provide informative lessons for the current international law discourse on environmental protection during armed conflict. We conclude the article with brief remarks and recommendations.