The Kampala Convention: Time for Ratification

Djibril Balde with Kristof Orlans

In October 2009, the African Union adopted The Kampala Convention, (the Convention) which was designed for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Africa. It came into force in 2012, 30 days after its ratification by the 15th member state.

According to paragraph k of the 1st article of the Kampala Convention, IDPs are defined as: persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border. Continue reading

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“Yet there’s no place for us”: Trump’s Executive Order epitomises a global trend of exclusion

Lucy Hovil

President Trump’s recent Executive Order is, without a doubt, extreme. The four-month hold on allowing refugees into the US, and the temporary ban on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, is both ridiculous and cruel. It is also wrong at multiple levels. It is flawed in its methodology, mistakenly based on the claim that these particular restrictions will make America safer; it violates US law; and it is morally unjustifiable in a context in which the responsibility for refugee protection is supposed to be shared – not to mention the fact that many of those who are fleeing are doing so as a result of wars that the US quite possibly helped to ignite. Continue reading

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The post-electoral impasse in the Gambia

Djibril Balde with Kristof Orlans

A week after accepting defeat in the Gambia’s 1 December polls, President Yahya Jammeh, in an extraordinary volte-face, rejected the results of the presidential election and ordered soldiers to take control of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), throwing the country into uncertainty. Today anxiety and disarray prevails in the minds of many Gambians as they worry what will happen if Jammeh refuses to hand over power.

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Displaced from Burundi – again

IRRI’s recent report on Burundi

In Burundi, people know only too well the consequences of war. And one of the most tangible consequences of war is displacement. But not only does war lead to displacement, failures to create a viable end to displacement can create the conditions for further unrest. This is precisely what has happened in Burundi, where a refugee crisis has unfolded far away from the gaze of a western media.

While a peace deal followed by a massive repatriation process in which over half a million refugees returned to the country between 2002 and 2010 gave the appearance of stability, in reality these trappings only went skin deep. The much harder and time-consuming work of reconstruction and the genuine reintegration of returnees did not fit well with the short attention spans (or at least budgets) of government and UN agencies, particularly in a country that was seen to have minimal strategic value.

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Gambia: elections in a climate of fear and impunity

On 1 December 2016, Gambians will go to the polls to elect a president with the likely scenario being the incumbent, President Yahya Jammeh will be re-elected for a fifth time. Twenty-two years ago, Jammeh was a young army officer when he took power in a military coup. He was then elected in 1996, and re-elected in 2001, 2006 and 2011. After having repealed presidential term limits in the Gambia, Jammeh has, once more, been put forward by his party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, to compete for a fifth consecutive term.

Under Jammeh’s watch, the human rights situation, as IRRI has documented, has deteriorated, so it is no surprise that the electoral landscape has been one studded with violence, arbitrary arrests, torture, forced disappearances and killings.

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Dadaab: Security is not only a concern for the Kenyan government

Refugees in Dadaab boarding buses to return to South Central Somalia, August 2016

In May 2016, the government of Kenya announced its plans to close Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, by the end of this month, November. The government asserted that one of their primary reasons was security. The camp is home to almost 300,000 refugees from neighbouring countries with the vast majority – over 260,000 or 95% – from Somalia, home of the armed group known as Al Shabaab.  Al Shabaab has carried out a number of attacks in Kenya in recent years and Kenya has alleged that some of these have been planned from inside Dadaab, thus its security justification for the closure. Continue reading

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Defending the International Criminal Court Means Improving It

This has been a rough month for the International Criminal Court (ICC). After years of threats of withdrawal from the Rome Statute which created the ICC by African states, South Africa, Gambia and Burundi have made moves to do so this month (South Africa and Burundi have formally notified the UN of their withdrawals while Gambia has merely signalled its intention to do so). Others may follow suit if the harsh rhetoric that both Uganda and Kenya have used against the court is any indication. Harsh words are not new, nor will the withdrawals unravel the ICC, but these moves are a stark reminder of the depth of frustration in some parts of Africa.

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Will a UN summit on migration change anything?

Lucy Hovil

On September 19, the UN Secretary-General will convene a summit meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York to address current “large movements of refugees and migrants.” Its goal is to ensure a re-commitment to the core principles of refugee protection and discuss new frameworks to respond to the increasing number of people on the move.

Without wanting to pour cold water over a meeting that is, in and of itself, a positive move – after all, lack of coordination is often a key stumbling block to refugee protection – the process is unfortunately fundamentally flawed. The summit brings together States, and therefore will be strongly influenced by government agendas. And those governments that are driven by the political need to limit mobility (keep people out), and by the imperative to contain and ghettoize them if they do get in, are among the loudest and most powerful.

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The International Criminal Court and the Bashir problem

International Justice Day is celebrated on 17 July, the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The day is meant to serve as a reminder of the importance of bringing perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide to justice.

Back in 2012, a UN Human Rights Office representative stated “The ICC… sends a strong message to perpetrators of human rights violations around the globe that you can run, but you cannot hide. You will be found, and you will be held to account for what you have done.” Unfortunately this has not been the case for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir who has been wanted by the ICC since 2009 but has so far managed to evade justice.

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Atrocities in Beni: Struggling to Make Sense of the Violence

On 2 June 2016, the Congolese organisation Filimbi asked Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to investigate the ongoing situation near Beni, in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In the words of a representative of the organisation, “A case like that of the massacres of our brothers in Beni – should – absolutely permit the opening of an investigation.” Apparently, the Office of the Prosecutor is considering it. An office spokesperson was quoted in the media as saying: “We are following the situation closely and particularly the allegations of crimes committed in the area of Beni and Lubero” [author’s translation].

According to the Study Center for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights (CEPADHO), between October 2014 and December 2015 more than 500 people were killed in the Beni region. The Congo Research Group concurred with this number in a report published in March. The killings began with a series of attacks in October 2014 in which, reportedly, 80 civilians were killed, apparently sparked by a major government offensive against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels earlier in the year.

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