By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
KAMPALA, Uganda – On Thursday, the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Africa took effect in 15 African countries. The first of its kind, this treaty is a legally binding instrument that compels states to protect and assist IDPs within the African region.
While refugees are given special status under international law since 1951, IDP’s haven’t been provided any such protection and assistance in spite of the fact that there are at least twice as many IDP’s in the world as refugees. Thus, sometime in 2009, the African Union conceived this treaty, otherwise known as the Kampala Convention, with the aim to provide standards for the protection of people from arbitrary displacement as well as the protection of IDPs while they are displaced. The Kampala Convention also aims to offer durable solutions for displacement.
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, nearly 10 million people are internally displaced across Africa. These individuals make up one third of the world’s internally displaced population. Most of them were forced to leave their villages to escape increasing famine and continuing violence resulting from ethnic wars and other brutal conflicts in countries like Congo, Burundi, and Uganda.
In the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, when the rebel group M23 took over Goma last month,
some 300,000 local residents were displaced. According to Sebastian Albuja, IDMC’s Head of Africa Development, when M23 raided an internally displaced persons camp, the Kanyarucinya camp, around 50,000 people were forced to flee within a few hours.
With the ratification of the Kampala Convention, members of the AU hope to put an end to what Albuja describes as a “cycle of violence and displacement”. Bruce Mokaya Orina of the International Committee of the Red Cross said the treaty actually “represents a significant step forward in the protection and assistance of internally displaced people” across Africa since it will be “potentially binding on all African countries – a quarter of world’s states.”
The Kampala Convention builds on international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as well as the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, promoting and strengthening regional and national measures to prevent, mitigate, prohibit, and eliminate the root causes of internal displacement. It sets out the rules and standards that determine the responsibilities of the African Union, multinational companies and private security actors in handling IDP cases.
37 of 53 countries in the AU have signed the convention, but have not yet ratified it. Among them are South Africa and the DRC.
For further information, please see:
Associated Press – African treaty to aid the displaced takes effect – 7 December 2012
Daily Maverick – Internally displaced people: An African solution to a huge African problem – 6 December 2012
Fox News – African treaty to aid the internally displaced comes into force 2 years after it was adopted – 6 December 2012
Think Africa Press – The Kampala Convention Enters Into Force Tomorrow – 5 December 2012