African countries’ reluctance to ratify Kampala Declaration questioned

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Uganda government has expressed its unhappiness towards African countries over delays in the ratification of the Kampala Declaration, which aims at ensuring that African states partner in offering protection to victims of forced displacement and the reconstruction of communities emerging from conflicts.

“Uganda hosts over 40,000 refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethopia and Somalia and therefore takes issues concerning refugees seriously,” said Morris Odongo who works in a refugee department in Uganda.

And some concerns have been raised as to why African countries have failed to ratify the Kampala Declaration on refugees. “The fact is that Kampala refugee declaration was reached during an African Union summit held in Uganda’s capital city Kampala last year. 27 heads of African Union member countries signed the declaration on refugees, returnees and Internally dispalced people. I wonder why their countries do not ratify it,” Mr. Odongo said.

Uganda’s minister of disaster preparedness and refugees, Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere has urged African states to sign the declaration before another summit takes place in July 2010.

Kampala Convention Ratification

Signed by 26 countries since it was endorsed in the Ugandan capital of Kampala on 23 October 2009, the convention obliges governments to recognize that IDPs have specific vulnerabilities and must be supported, according to Walter Kälin, Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons.

It covers all causes of displacement, is forceful in terms of responsibility and goes beyond addressing the roles of states to those of the AU and non-state actors. The instrument is aimed at progressively eliminating forced population displacement caused by conflicts and to reduce the suffering of those displaced by natural disasters in Africa.

AU ministers responsible for forced displacement, who met in Addis Ababa on 4 and 5 June, agreed to seek support for implementation from non-traditional and private sector partners and to accelerate the convention’s ratification at an AU summit in Kampala in July. Domestication includes voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement, and strategies for prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, as well as post-conflict reconstruction and peace building.

The Kampala convention, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is the custodian of international humanitarian law, provides a solid framework for enhancing the protection and assistance of IDPs in Africa. To become a binding document, it has to be ratified by 15 of the AU’s 53 members. So far, one has done so.

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