The plight of 17 million refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa, or IDPs, are finally receiving the attention of African of states—or at least five of them. Thursday marked the beginning of the two-day special African Union summit, convened by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, that aims to ratify the Convention on the Protection and Assistance of the Displaced People in Africa. The treaty is the first of its kind to address the issue of IDPs on a continent-wide level and would legally bind participating countries to its provisions.
According to AFP, the draft convention calls for the prevention of forced displacement protection of refugees and the internally displaced, helping victims of conflicts and natural disasters, and providing assistance to IDPs with special needs. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commended these efforts.
Given the occasion, here’s a quick look at the IDP and refugee situations in Enough’s conflict areas, citing figures from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
Sudan: 4.9 million IDPs, 397,013 refugees
Aside from having the world’s largest number of displaced people, about 250,000 people were displaced from South Sudan due to violence in 2009. The large number of Sudanese refugees over the border in Chad is also a huge humanitarian concern; a recent Amnesty International report details the alarming use of violence against refugee women.
Democratic Republic of Congo: 2 million IDPs, 367,995 refugees
During the first six months of 2009 alone, more than 800,000 people were displaced in eastern DRC—the highest rate of newly displaced in the world. These displacements are among the “catastrophic” civilian costs of a United Nations-backed Congolese military operation launched this year. Click here to read Enough’s latest strategy paper on the situation.
Uganda: 710,000 IDPs, 7,548 refugees
Two-thirds of the 1.8 million people who were displaced at the height of hostilities between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army, have returned. However, challenges remain to ensure that returnees have access to basic services.
Somalia: 1.3 million IDPs, 559,153 refugees
After his mission to Somalia, Walter Kaelin, Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, concluded that the international community has failed displaced Somalis.
He said, “Existing humanitarian aid is pitifully insufficient compared to the needs of the displaced who often face severe protection risks and marginalization.”
Photo: Displaced by fighting, people arrive at a camp in eastern Congo. (Enough/Laura Heaton)