Gambia in search of justice: the cases against former Interior Minister Ousmane Sonko

On 26 January 2017, Gambia’s former Interior Minister, Ousmane Sonko, was arrested near Berne in Switzerland and charged with crimes against humanity. Two alleged victims, supported by the Swiss NGO TRIAL International, recently filed criminal charges against Sonko, claiming that “they were tortured by the Gambian authorities while Sonko was in charge of security services, both as Inspector General of the Police and then as Minister of the Interior from 2006 till 2016 when he was dismissed. He is accused of having himself participated in these acts of torture.” Continue reading

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The donor dollar is important, but it is no substitute for good refugee policy

Uganda is currently holding a Solidarity Summit on Refugees. The summit is taking place as Uganda hosts over a million refugees, the majority of whom have fled the upsurge in fighting in South Sudan. Despite the extraordinary speed and scale of displacement (between July 2016 and January 2017, over half a million refugees arrived in Uganda), the country has shown incredible hospitality and should be applauded for doing so. Continue reading

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Discussions about UNAMID must Prioritise Protection

29 June 2016, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2296 (2016) extending UNAMID’s until 30 June 2017.
UN Photo

Is UNAMID next on the UN peacekeeping chopping block? It seems likely, as years of advocacy by the Government of Sudan and the current US administration’s eagerness to cut UN peacekeeping costs seem to come together. But many civilians continue to rely on the peacekeeping mission’s relative protection, as attacks on civilians continue.

Today, the UN Security Council is discussing the mandate of the joint United Nations/African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), whose mandate expires at the end of the month. It is vital that this debate takes the views of the civilians who are affected by the mission’s presence into consideration.

International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) reflected some of those voices in a report published a year ago. At that time, citizens in Darfur were unequivocal that the situation would be worse if the mission were to leave. A displaced man told us: “[UNAMID] are not active because they are not free. They are unable to move or to act alone. Obviously they are controlled by government of Sudan. [But] their objectives are good…. [And] despite all that, their existence is important. It would be even worse without them.”

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Why We Shouldn’t Ignore What’s Happening in Cameroon

When Cameroon’s President Paul Biya decided to switch the internet in Cameroon’s anglophone provinces back on in April after three months, it might have looked like the crisis that had paralysed those parts of the country since the end of last year was over. But faced with continuous internal and external problems, including anglophone discontent, political uncertainty, the threat of Boko Haram and violence in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR), Cameroon remains fragile. Continue reading

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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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