The Tanzania Red Cross society (TRCS) has condemned the misuse of its emblem, giving those behind the practice a year to reform or face the consequences.
Members of the society facilitating a one-day seminar for news editors in Dar es Salaam yesterday on the use of the emblem said those interested in using crosses in their activities should go for non-red ones instead.
Opening the seminar, TRCS deputy secretary general Peter Mlebusi said they are looking into a way of telling the government to relook into the law guiding the use of the emblem that has been there since independence.
“A wide range of unauthorised people or bodies like commercial enterprises, pharmacists and others misusing our emblem. This is an entity protected by law and everyone should respect it.
This is not meant for business or for any profit gaining activity. It is a symbol of peace and is used to support the vulnerable,” stressed Mlebusi.
The society’s public relations and communication officer, Raymond Kanyambo, said they want to launch a serious campaign on the misuse of the emblem this year, so that by next January, no body will be allowed to use it, save for those mentioned in the law.
“We expect to continue raising the awareness on the misuse of the emblem, but we want by next year, this misuse to have come to a stop,” he noted.He said despite the government’s recognition of the National Society and its emblem, it has been a challenge to convince it and its different units not to use it.
“We have been facing a great challenge in countering the misuse of the emblem. All health facilities including those under the government use the Red Cross logo on their institutions, including ambulances. The same Red Cross emblem appears on most of their facilities including equipment, drug shops and most traditional healers too use the logo,” Kanyambo said during training.
Addressing reporters after the training on the Red Cross Day which, is commemorated on May 8, TRCS Secretary General Adam Kimbisa said it was improper to use the emblem in dispensaries, pharmacies, government vehicles or individual businesses. According to him, some people might make money using the emblem, thus making false impression about the Red Cross. “We are in the process of launching an operation to arrest those using the emblem. If they want to be safe, then they had better use crosses of different colours,” he said.
“The organisations that are supposed to use our symbol, is the International Committee of the Red Cross, (ICRC), International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), Tanzania Red Cross society (national society) and medical personnel of the armed forces and for Tanzania, this is only for the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces and its armed carriers,” he stressed.
Already the society is processing a review of the law to fit into the needs as the existing law of 1962 has never been amended, he said.
“We are processing the review of the law to strengthen the areas of penalty, raising awareness and the law itself. We need this law to be tough on people misusing the emblem. But we are aware that we need to raise awareness as much as possible for the people to understand our mission,” he noted.
Earlier when facilitating the training for news editors, the ICRC media officer, Lynette Kamau said the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems have no cultural, religious or political connections.
She said the emblem is used as a symbol to distinguish the Red Cross team from other parties but also used during peace times to identify a Red Cross staff and the society’s properties.
“The emblem usage says who we are, what we do and how we do it, and differentiates our services from those of other organisations, shows the support we give to the vulnerable, protects civilians in war zones and protects our staff and volunteers while helping the vulnerable,” she noted.
Last year the ICRC head of mission, Mathias Weinreich was quoted as saying improper use of humanitarian emblems is inconsistent with the international humanitarian law.
He said any misuse of the emblem diminished its protective value and undermined the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance.
He said in other countries like Germany and France the law is very strict for those who misusing the emblem, but in other countries there is no law which prohibit people or institutions from using it.