Thursday, October 22, 2009

African leaders meet in Uganda to sign treaty on the plight of 17 million refugees and displaced Africans

The Convention on the Protection and Assistance of the Displaced People in Africa is the first of its kind aimed at internally displaced people, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

On Wednesday, the AU executive council adopted the draft convention which calls for the prevention of forced displacement, protection of refugees and the internally displaced and helping victims of conflicts and natural disasters.

Under the convention, the draft of which was seen by AFP, countries will be required to provide special assistance for IDPs with special needs, including the elderly.

From AFP by Emmanuel Goujon, 22 October 2009:
African leaders to sign treaty on refugee plight
KAMPALA — African leaders gathered on Thursday in the Ugandan capital for a two-day summit aimed at agreeing a treaty on improving the plight of the continent's 17 million refugees and displaced.
The Convention on the Protection and Assistance of the Displaced People in Africa is the first of its kind aimed at internally displaced people, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"The summit is aimed at pursuing durable solutions to the root causes and challenges of Africa's 17 million IDPs and refugees," Ugandan Minister for Refugees Tarsis Kabwegyere said ahead of the meeting.

Political upheaval, conflicts and natural disasters have left Africa with the world's highest number of refugees and displaced.
"Internal displacement is one of the most daunting humanitarian challenges of our day, and no one would deny that Africa is the hardest-hit continent in terms of numbers of IDPs," ICRC chief Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement.

Somalia's long-running conflict, instability in DR Congo's eastern region and recent political violence in Kenya as well as other hotspots such as northern Uganda and south Sudan have caused massive population displacements.

Around a third of Somalia's 10 million people are in need of relief aid due to a prolonged drought that has plunged the Horn of Africa country into its worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years.

Close to a sixth of the population is displaced.

Even as the summit got under way, at least 17 civilians died in an exchange of mortar and artillery fire in Mogadishu, the latest in a string of such incidents that have sent tens of thousands fleeing the city in recent months.

African Union political affairs commissioner Julia Dolly Joiner called for political and economic stability for the continent's trouble spots.

"Improvements in governance, rapid economic development and more appropriate food security strategies are among the actions that will ensure that the root causes are addressed," she said.

On Wednesday, the AU executive council adopted the draft convention which calls for the prevention of forced displacement, protection of refugees and the internally displaced and helping victims of conflicts and natural disasters.

Under the convention, the draft of which was seen by AFP, countries will be required to provide special assistance for IDPs with special needs, including the elderly.

Leaders at the Kampala summit will also set up an action plan to implement the resolution which emerges from the meeting.
Last year, the 53-member bloc resolved to bolster the protection of refugees and displaced people, a move that was lauded by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as historic.

"But some African countries are reluctant to ratify the convention which would be restrictive and have legal consequences," an African diplomat told AFP.

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