The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa,otherwise known as the Kampala Convention came into force on 6th December 2012,in conformity with Article 17 (1) of the Convention,thirty days after the 15th party- eSwatini deposited its instruments of ratification with the African Union.The Kampala Convention was adopted at a Special AU Summit on the 22nd of October 2009 in Uganda’s capital,Kampala.Hailed as a milestone for human rights in Africa and indeed international human rights and humanitarian law,the Kampala Convention is the world’s first legally binding instrument that extensively addresses the plight of IDPs. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Africa is home to well over to 9.7 million Internally Displaced Persons.That 40% of all the people who’ve been displaced as a result of violent conflict live in Africa- the continent.In fact,as at the end of 2011,out of 26 million internally displaced persons due to conflict and war world over,a staggering 9.8 million was in Africa.A number which Refugees International say would undoubtedly increase significantly were we to take into account the people displaced due to other multiple causal factors.(natural disasters,unlawfully forced eviction by development projects,Multinational Corporations and private security/military companies.)There are almost four times as many internally displaced persons as there are refugees in Africa according to The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre . It is on the premise of this,that African governments ought to domesticate this landmark convention as provided for in Article 3 (2) (a) of the convention.Thus far, only 36 countries have signed the treaty.Out of that,only 15 have ratified and they include:Uganda,Benin,Gabon,Burkina Faso,Chad,Gambia,Guinea Bissau,Lesotho,Zambia,Togo,Sierra Leone,Niger and the Central Africa Republic,Nigeria and eSwatini. Unlike refugees,IDPs do not have a special status under international law.Lets distinguish the two-refugees and IDPs, shall we?Refugees are people who have crossed an international border and are at risk or have been victims of persecution in their country of origin. IDPs on the other hand have not crossed an international border,but have,for whatever reason,also fled their homes.
Under Article 3 (1) of the convention,states are generally obligated to,among other things:
- prevent political,social,cultural and economic exclusion and marginalisation,that are likely to cause displacement of populations or persons by virtue of their social identity,religion or political opinion.
- ensure the accountability of non-state actors involved in the exploration and exploitation of economic and natural resources leading to displacement.
- ensure individual responsibility for acts of arbitrary displacement,in accordance with applicable domestic and international criminal law.
The Kampala Convention specifically mandates states inter alia, to:
- devise early warning systems,in the context of the continental early warning system,in areas of potential displacement,establish and implement disaster risk reduction strategies,emergency and disaster preparedness and management measures and,where necessary,provide immediate protection and assistance to internally displaced persons.
- take necessary measures to ensure that internally displaced persons are received without discrimination of any kind and live in satisfactory conditions of safety,dignity and security during displacement.
- take special measures to protect and provide for the reproductive and sexual health of internally displaced women as well as appropriate psycho-social support for victims of sexual and other related abuses.
- as much as possible prevent displacement caused by projects carried out by public or private actors and ensure as well that the stakeholders concerned will explore feasible alternatives,with full information and consultation of persons likely to be displaced by projects.
- enable displaced persons to make a free and informed choice on whether to return,integrate locally or relocate by consulting them on these and other options and ensuring their participation in finding sustainable solutions.
- establish an effective legal framework to provide just and fair compensation and other forms of reparations,where appropriate,to internally displaced persons for damage incurred as a result of displacement,in accordance with international standards.
Kenya still hasn’t signed and ratified the Kampala Convention. It is worth noting that countries which have the largest populations of IDPs (close to 6 million combined) – South Sudan,Somalia and DRC haven’t as well ratified the treaty yet.Experiences in Africa and around the world have demonstrated that backing up innovative international agreements such as the Kampala Convention with strong domestic laws is essential to ensuring that obligations laid out in these instruments don’t just exist on paper,but translate into improved practice,writes Brookings Institute’s Fellow, Megan Bradley, on the implementation challenges. Of note is the need to pro-actively engage sub-regional institutions like the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD),the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),the South African Development Community (SADC), and financial institutions such as the African Development Bank.
To date, the Kampala Convention has been signed by forty states and ratified by twenty five. The action plan for the implementation of the Convention was adopted last year in Harare (the Harare Plan of Action), at the first meeting of the conference of states parties.