By Susan Kendi
Realising a conflict-free continent is the dream of every African. Ahead of the 33rd AU Summit we highlight the current hotspots; the root causes of conflicts; the various efforts in search of peaceful co-existence and development in line with this year’s theme of #silencingtheguns.
South Sudan is the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis but one that’s an entirely man-made disaster according to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
With 2.3 million refugees, South Sudan is ranked the third globally as country of origin of refugees behind Syria and Afghanistan. Majority of South Sudanese refugees reside in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations in the end of 2018 review. More than half of the refugee population are children under the age of 18.This is an increase of 2.3 million people compared to the previous year under review.
One person is displaced every two seconds across the world but the figures become overwhelmingly unbearable with developing countries according to the annual Global Trends report prepared by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reviewing 2017.
Apart from South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are affected evidently showing that Africa has the highest number of origin countries of refugees.
“What we are seeing in these figures is further confirmation of a longer-term rising trend in the number of people needing safety from war, conflict and persecution,” said Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In Africa, the two major triggers of displacement is war and conflict with little progress towards peace initiatives.
The African Union declared 2019, “The year of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons” and providing solutions to forced displacement and this is why.
South Sudan serves as a perfect example with several failed peace deal attempts. The civil war in country began in December 2013 and four million South Sudanese have fled their country since then. The political instability has been as a result of power struggle between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar costing lives of thousands of people and the famine in the country has left nearly five million people hungry. Both sides of the conflict have politically targeted civilians based on their ethnicity and political afflications. Irrespective of the human rights violations, the African Union and South Sudan have not fulfilled their obligation of establishing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS), following the 2015 agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan.
Somalia has been ranked fifth on the top seven list of countries of origin of refugees. The country has been experiencing civil strife, leaving thousands of Somali people to flee their country. The Al-Shabaab, an affiliation of Al-Qaeda is alleged to be controlling Southern Somalia. Most Somalis have settled in Ethiopia and Kenya at the Daadab camp one of the world’s largest refugee camp. Others have applied for asylum to stay in the United Kingdom, Canada and United States.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a rich country with fertile land and natural resources such as diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt and zinc. Despite this wealth, the country’s infrastructure has not grown due to the series of wars that have been happening in the country. The first war commonly referred to as Africa World War took place between 1996 and 1997 and ever since the political situation in the country is unstable. There has been mass rapes, thousands killed and more than 4.5 million people displaced. The United Nation’s peacekeeping mission has been in the country since 1999 but their involvement has not put an end to the violence. Germain Katanga and Bosco Ntaganda have been convicted and sentenced at the International Criminal Court for crimes that they committed in Congo. Last year opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi was declared and inaugurated as the president of DRC. Apart from ongoing conflict, DRC has had a number of Ebola outbreak. Most of Congolese refugees have resided in Uganda.
The conflict in Darfur, Sudan has diminished in the years but Sudan still remains a volatile country. Around 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced according to the United Nations. Darfur victims are yet to receive justice and ironically Sudan’s ex-president Omar Al-Bashir was sentenced to two years for corruption in a social reform facility since he is above age 70 years and hence cannot serve a jail term. Despite the charges he faces at the International Criminal Court of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and the allegations over his contribution to the 2003 Darfur conflict, Sudan has not handed him over to the court of last resort.
Central African Republic still remains unstable with the fight between the Muslim Seleka rebels and anti balaka [Christians] conflict and crimes being committed with both sides. Thousands have died and thousands displaced. Two individuals are currently facing charges at the ICC.Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona whose cases were jointed are alleged to be responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in various locations in the Central African Republic, including Bangui and the Lobaye Prefecture, between December 5, 2013 and August 2014.
Burundi has been experiencing ethic civil war and has it struggled to recover from the blow President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he would run for a third term in April 2015, a move that has caused the political instability. There has been killings, kidnappings and torture by the police, military and Imbonerakure. More than 400,000 people have fled since Nkurunziza’s announcement. In 2019,Tanzania began a mass deportation of Burundi refugees against their will, a move that was condemned by UNHCR who had signed a trilateral treaty with Tanzania in 2018 stating that Burundian refugees could return to their country at their own will. In August 2019, Tanzania signed a bilateral deal with Burundi stating that 200,000 Burundian refugees would return to their country by the end of 2019.
On June 20, 2020, the world will be marking the World Refugee Day. The six examples explicitly show the refugee numbers, status and security a discussion that should go into deep lengths of protection of refugees and solution to the political status in Africa.
This year’s African Union’s theme is “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development,” as African leaders discuss how to develop Africa they should also pause to discuss the political crisis and how to solve the ever growing refugees originating from African countries.