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African Union should walk the talk

By Vision Reporter

Added 18th October 2009 03:00 AM

AFRICA hosts almost half of the world’s internally displaced people (IDPs) — 11 million out of an estimated 25 million. Within the continent, Eastern Africa has the largest number of displaced – over eight million.

AFRICA hosts almost half of the world’s internally displaced people (IDPs) — 11 million out of an estimated 25 million. Within the continent, Eastern Africa has the largest number of displaced – over eight million.

Sudan alone accounts for 4.5 million. Another 1.3 million people are uprooted in Somalia, while two million have fled their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Uganda, about half a million people still live in IDP camps and transit sites in the north as a result of the LRA insurgency, despite the fact that a cessation-of-hostilities agreement was signed three years ago.

Most IDPs in the region have fled armed conflicts and brutality against civilians committed by armed groups.

Increasingly, however, Africans are being displaced by natural disasters as a result of climate change. Calamities displaced 284,000 people in Mozambique and 73,000 in Ethiopia in 2007.

The African Union summit on refugees, returnees and IDPs, which starts in Kampala today, could therefore not be better timed.

The challenge for the African leaders is to agree on a legally binding instrument on IDPs in the form of the ‘African Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa’.

It will be the first international instrument of its kind; and it is commendable that Africa has shown leadership in this area.

However, African countries have generally been weak in implementing the agreements they signed. The responsibility of looking after IDPs has too often been left to aid agencies, some of whom pursue their own agenda.

In some instances, governments have been responsible for the displacement of people. In other instances, they have failed to protect aid workers and even obstructed their work. It is hoped that the African leaders will walk the talk.

It is hoped that they will firmly commit themselves to not only protect and assist IDPs but also prevent forced displacement of people and come up with clear policies on return and resettlement.

Hosting half of the world’s IDPs is, above all, a sign of failure on the part of African leaders to protect their own people.

African Union should walk the talk

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