The African Union will hold the African Convention on the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees in Africa in April next year.
“The fact that refugees are a trans-border concern makes a continental coalition of States necessary. The summit will not only address the issue of returnees, refugees and internally displaced persons, it will also ensure that the root causes of these displacements and issues of conflict resolution are discussed,” Isaac Musumba, the Uganda’s State Minister charged with regional co-operation, said yesterday in Kampala at a press briefing on the forthcoming event.
He added that the summit will be historic since African Heads of State will be meeting for the first time to collectively tackle the issue of internally displaced persons and refugees.
“Our leaders in Africa are going to sit and address, for the first time, in a collective way what needs to be done to avoid conflict that brings about refugees or displacements. And also come up with solutions on what should be done when such a scenario occurs,” he said.
The historic summit comes from a recommendation from an AU Ministerial meeting held in July 2006 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
It recommended convening a special summit to address the problem of the forced displacement in Africa and finalisation of the AU Convention on internally displaced persons.
In 1969, the OAU Convention governing the specific aspects of refugee problems in Africa was enacted.
In her remarks at the press briefing, Julia Dolly Joiner, a Commissioner for political affairs at the African Union said that a solemn declaration will be made at the end of the summit.
African Heads of State in the declaration will 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 for a long term solution.
“The phenomenon of forced displacement in Africa is indeed a serious one. It will be a landmark achievement if the document is adopted because it will be the first ever such convention in the world. It will complement to a large extent the OAU Convention that was adopted in 1969,”she underscored.
Joiner added that currently Africa is a host to the largest number of refugees and displaced persons in the world with about 17 million people, usually as a result of conflict and natural disasters.
In order to enter into force, the Convention will require 50 ratifications upon which a plan of action will be adopted. The summit under the theme: “African Union addressing the challenge of forced displacement in Africa” will be hosted by Uganda in conjunction with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.