Addis Ababa: Kampala special summit on of internally displaced persons in Africa

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Since 1969, a few year after most African countries became independent, Africa has been deeply concerned by the challenge posed by refugees in the Continent. At that time, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) adopted the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. This strategic instrument was repeatedly proved critical for the protection of millions of refugees.

Fifty year after the independences, Africa still hosts more than 17 millions refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP’s). In order to address the root causes of forced displacement, the African Union (AU) has decided to convene a Special Summit from 19 to 23 October 12, 2009 in Kampala, Uganda.

During this Summit, AU Heads of State and Government will brainstorm on prevention, reconciliation, post conflict reconstruction, migratory movements, natural disasters, climate change and food security. However, leaders of the continent are most expected to endorse and sign the African Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, the first ever such Convention in the world.

Generally, the objectives of this Convention are to promote and strengthen regional and national measures to prevent or mitigate, prohibit and eliminate root causes of internal displacement as well as provide for durable solutions.

It will establish a legal framework for preventing internal displacement, where possible, and protecting and assisting internally displaced persons in Africa. The Convention will as well establish a legal framework for solidarity, cooperation, promotion of durable solutions and mutual support between the States Parties in order to combat displacement and address its consequences. Its aim is likewise to provide for the obligations and responsibilities of States Parties, with respect to the prevention of internal displacement and protection of, and assistance, to internally displaced persons.

Lastly, this African instrument will provide for the respective obligations, responsibilities and roles of armed groups, non-state actors and other relevant actors, including civil society organizations, with respect to the prevention of internal displacement and protection of, and assistance to, internally displaced persons.

As a sign of Africa’s commitment to tackle the root causes of forced displacement and in a view to eradicate this phenomenon from the continent, with a Solemn Declaration, AU Heads of State and Government are expected to commit themselves to take concrete measures to address the root causes of forced displacement, strengthen protection and assistance for the continent’s millions of refugees and IDPs and create conditions conducive for long term solutions. Following to this meeting, a Plan of Action will be put in place to implement the decisions adopted by the Summit.

According to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

Internally displaced persons are “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.”

Source: African Union Commission (AUC)

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