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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Peacekeeping missions, the protection of civilians and the impact on their future

After thirteen years in the country the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), deployed at the end of the country’s civil war in 2003, is preparing to leave the country and hand over full responsibility for security back to Liberia’s government by the end of next month. What is remarkable about this is not that the UN has recognised Liberia is in a position where it no longer needs a peacekeeping force but the fact that this is only happening now. This is in sharp contradiction to other situations where discussions are already either already taking place with regards to withdrawal  despite not even having a small percentage of the relative calm and stability Liberia has seen for over ten years, or the missions , despite their longevity are so ineffectual that these discussions can not even be considered. 

Today the world will recognise the International Day of UN Peacekeepers and this, combined with  recent announcement of UNMIL’s withdrawal, seems like an opportune time to reflect on the current status of peacekeepers in countries on the other side of the continent – Sudan, Somalia and South Sudan – and the future of these missions.

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Republic of Congo: counting the social cost of recent elections and political violence

It may not be easy to determine the social cost of the recent presidential elections and ensuing violence in the Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville) but it is evident that it was quite high. On 16 April, following his victory in controversial presidential elections held in March, Mr. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who has held power for over 30 years was, once again, sworn in as president of the country. However, hundreds of the country’s citizens are still reeling from post-election violence that erupted because of controversy around the electoral process, not to mention the human rights violations that took place both in the run up to, and aftermath of, the elections.

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Why is the cost of hosting refugees falling on the world’s poorest states?

The government of Kenya says it plans to close Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, which hosts approximately 330,000 people, as well as shutting the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA). The announcement, on Friday 6 May, was no doubt a pre-election stunt of Trump-like proportions that plays to an electorate’s fear of generating instability and outsiders taking jobs, playing to the same xenophobic narrative that has become commonplace in election campaigns across the world. It has been met with outrage and concern by many national and international actors alike – and, more important, by the hundreds of thousands of refugees whose lives are likely to be affected by this decision. Others have dismissed it as an empty threat, albeit a dangerous and irresponsible one.

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Presidents Museveni, Bashir and the International Criminal Court

At his inauguration ceremony yesterday, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, whilst sharing the stage with Sudan’s President Omar-al Bashir, against whom there is an outstanding International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant, stated the ICC was “a bunch of useless people.”

“When they started, we used to take the ICC serious but not anymore. They are a bunch of useless people who should not be taken serious. We have no business with the ICC and so we welcome our brother from Sudan President al-Bashir,” Museveni said at the ceremony. Continue reading

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Regional and local tensions intertwine in Gambella, as violence claims hundreds of lives

On 15 April 2016, a cross-border raid from South Sudan into Ethiopia’s Gambella region left more than 200 dead. According to the Ethiopian government, more than 108 women and children were abducted and some 2,000 head of cattle stolen during the attack that targeted Nuer villages in the districts of Jikawo and Lare. Following the attack, the Ethiopian government announced two days of mourning for the victims and, in coordination with the South Sudanese government, sent a military force into South Sudan to rescue the kidnapped children. Continue reading

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