The AU summit in Kampala has come at a timely moment. There is finally some calm in quite a number of African countries- Congolese rebel, Laurent Nkunda, isn’t front page news; Joseph Kony isn’t terrorizing Southern Sudan, Chad and northern Uganda as he used to; the Niger Delta rebels have taken the offer of amnesty from the Nigerian government and in Kenya and Zimbabwe power sharing is the order of the day.
However this ‘calm’ situation (relatively speaking at least) should not blind us. Our Heads of State should look for a lasting solution to the problem of refugees by analyzing its causes and not merely treating its symptoms.
This is difficult because the issue of refugees involves insecurity, poverty and famine- issues that have been Africa’s bane for years.
Solving this entails putting in place measures to stop insecurity in the African continent which isn’t as easy and straightforward as it sounds since insurgences in Africa are unpredictable.
The oil wells in Nigeria are not yet dry, MDC members in Zimbabwe want to leave and the Somali President has not yet slept in his capital.
The other solution would be securing some land in every state to host these suffering masses. Sadly, this has caused problems; the tension that has been created by the Land Bill in Uganda is a result of some people thinking the government is planning to give their land to those who came as refugees and never went back home.
Land alone is not a panacea to this problem. The refugees are people like any other and thus deserve medical care, accommodation, water and adequate food.
A rather controversial option would be to put in place policies that allow the free influx of refugees to any country of their convenience freely without limitations.
This is also quite not simple though since not all countries have the same hospitality.
Reading this, one may think I’m pessimistic about the future of the refugee problem in Africa. It’s true that I am, but we also have to be realistic and face the challenge in order to find lasting solutions to it. Let the AU today make a history.
The author is a teacher at Sonrise High School, Musanze