REPORT OF ACTIVITIES FOR THE INTER-SESSION PERIOD JUNE TO NOVEMBER 2006 FOR COMMISSIONER BAHAME TOM NYANDUGA,
THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS, MIGRANTS AND INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS IN AFRICA.
1. At the beginning of June 2006, I attended the 2 nd African Ministerial Conference on Refugees, in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso. The conference reviewed the situation of refugees in Africa since the last Ministerial Conference in Khartoum.
The Ministers adopted the Legal Framework for the proposed African Union IDP Protocol, which was prepared by a committee of AU Legal Experts in April 2006 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The process of drafting the Protocol is underway.
2. Between 15 and 17 September 2006, I attended a meeting of Experts on Internal Displacement, and of the Steering Committee on Legislators’ IDP Manual, convened by the Boltzmann Institute in Vienna, Austria, and the Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on the Human Rights of IDPs, respectively, to discuss the Draft reports commissioned by the Steering Committee on the Legislator’s Manual.
Among the experts, were representatives of NGOs from Uganda and Southern Sudan, and a government official from the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
3. On 31 October 2006, I participated in the Roundtable discussions organised jointly by the African Union and the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, to launch the Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law.
The study, conducted between 1995 and 2005, looked at state practice world wide, during armed conflicts, domestic legislation, military manuals and training, etc. In Africa, the study looked at the practice in nine states, some of which had experienced armed conflict. These are Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
I presented a paper on the Interplay between IHL and Human Rights: African Perspective, with particular reference to conflict situation in Africa, and the role played by the African Commission in the promotion of IHL in Africa through its resolutions and decisions, and the applicability of IHL to non-state actors.
On the 1 st November 2006, I participated in the 9 th AU/ICRC Brainstorming Session held in Addis Ababa, with the Permanent Representatives of AU member states to the African Union on the role of IHL in the protection of civilians during armed conflicts. I presented a paper on the protection of refugees and IDPs, women and children in particular.
The Brainstorming session urged Parliamentarians in African states to ensure that they ratify international humanitarian law instruments, and adopt domestic legislations promoting IHL.
I urged AU members states, which have not done so, to ratify all IHL and Human rights instruments, domesticate them and train the civilian population on IHL and human rights principles, as a long term measures to prevent atrocities and grave human rights violations, witnessed in many conflict situations in Africa.
REFUGEE AND IDP SITUATION.
Under the terms of my mandate, I have continued to monitor the human rights situation of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and IDPs in Africa.
The refugee and IDP situation in Africa over the last six months recorded mixed developments. While Africa continues to record progress in the repatriation and return of refugees in countries where peace is progressively consolidating, the continued existence and occurrence of new conflicts in some parts of the continent threatens to reverse this positive trend. The number of IDPs in Africa remains at intolerable levels at more than 12 million IDPs. This situation is in my view, unnecessary, unacceptable, and unjustifiable. It is a negation of the objectives and principles that the African Union has stood for since its inception in 2002.
The signing of the peace agreement between the Government and the last rebel group, the Palipehutu FNL in September 2006, has established conditions for the safe return of refugees from neighbouring countries and IDPs from other parts of the country.
The situation in the Darfur region of Sudan has deteriorated in the last six months. The hopes and expectations arising out of the Abuja Comprehensive Peace Agreement have not been fully realised. Reports indicate that the rebel movements, which did not sign the Abuja Darfur Peace Accord in May 2006 have continued to fight Government forces.
As a result, it is reported that there has been an increased military and Janjawid militia attacks on the civilian population in Darfur, committing human rights violation, including rape, and the killing of civilians. These attacks clearly pose a threat not only to the 2 million IDPs and the Darfurian population, but also to the security of about 200,000 refugees from Darfur who are located in eastern Chad. If this is indeed correct, it constitutes a violation of the protection the refugees are guaranteed under international law, and under the African Charter, and a failure by the government of Sudan to protect the people of Darfur.
The humanitarian situation in Darfur has continued to deteriorate as a result of the escalating conflict. Humanitarian agencies have been forced to withdraw from Darfur, either due to insecurity or the operating conditions imposed by government, hence making the provision of humanitarian assistance to the displaced population increasingly very difficult.
The mandate of the African Union Military Observer Mission in Darfur has come under severe strain during this period, because of the increased attacks on the civilian population, the attack on the military observers themselves, a number of whom have lost their lives, as well as attacks on humanitarian personnel. Calls for the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur, have previously been strongly objected to by the Government of Sudan.
Sometime in September 2006, I wrote to the Government of Sudan appealing to the Government to cooperate with the African Union and the UN, in finding an amicable solution to the deployment of the UN peacekeeping force. I am glad to report that on 16 November 2006, the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, managed at last to secure an Agreement for the deployment of a joint UN/AU Peacekeeping force in The Darfur.
I appeal to the Government of Sudan to find a lasting solution to the conflict in the Darfur, including the implementation of recommendations contained in the 2004 African Commission report, which has to-date not been acknowledged by the government.
Let me at this point; commend the establishment of conditions which facilitate the return of IDPs to Southern Sudan, following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in January 2005.
A new conflict has emerged in Chad following attacks by rebel forces on Ndjamena and in eastern Chad. In south east of Chad attacks by the ethnic Arab group against black Africa populations have surfaced. Already there is internal displacement occurring in Chad
CENTRAL AFRICA REPUBLIC
It is also reported that ethnic based clashes are taking place in the Central Africa Republic. This conflict threatens internal displacement and an outflow of refugees.
Following the conduct of the July and October 2006 Parliamentary and Presidential elections, the IDP situation is expected to improve considerably in the DRC, where about 3 million people were internally displaced during the 5 year conflict. The elections, which were held in a peaceful atmosphere, have brought hope to the people of the DRC, in particular to the people in the North East and the Eastern DRC, who were most affected by the conflicts.
It is my hope that the new government and the people of the DRC will embark on the consolidation of their democratic gains, and the establishment of sustainable structures of governance, which will ensure respect for human and peoples’ rights in the DRC.
The Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa recently witnessed displacement cause by natural disasters. I previously reported about the severe drought last year. Recently heavy rains have caused flooding which has displaced about 350,000 people in Ethiopia.
Kenya which hosts a number of refugees from neighbouring countries, being one of the countries in the Great Lakes region, which has hosted thousands of refugees for a generation, has this week experienced heavy flooding, after suffering a severe drought which affected human lives and livestock last year. It is estimated that about 80,000 people have been displaced and another 23 are reported dead as a result of the flooding.
In Somalia the legitimacy of the Transitional National Government was challenged when a group known as the Union of Islamic Courts defeated the warlords and gained control of Mogadisho, the capital city, the southern and central part of the country.
Internal displacement in Somalia is a long term problem, compounded by years of conflict, drought, famine, insecurity and recently flooding, following the heavy rains in several parts of eastern Africa. An estimated 2,000,000 have over the years been displaced to various parts of that conflict ridden state. Unfortunately, the prospect for peace appears remote because, the two contending political forces, ie the TFG and the UIC, have so far not found a lasting compromise. The AU, IGAD and other mediators are continuing with efforts to mediate between the two sides.
In August 2006, Uganda concluded a ceasefire agreement with the Lords Resistance Army, under peace talks brokered by the government of Southern Sudan to end the 20 year conflict. This conflict has brought a lot of suffering to the people of Northern Uganda. While commending the government of Uganda for opening negotiations with the LRA, I hope that the negotiations will deliver peace and justice in Northern Uganda, by ensuring that the perpetrators of war crimes, human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed in Northern Uganda over the last 20 years are brought to justice.
I wish to appeal to the State Parties to the African Charter in whose territories there are refugees and IDPs, to ensure they accord them protection. I also call on the international community to continue their assistance to the victims of displacement, refugees and returnees in Africa, so that they can enjoy their normal livelihoods during and after years of conflict.
The problem of migration by thousands of African youths to Europe through unsafe maritime passage continued to grab headlines during this period, with most of the attempts being made to the Canary Islands, the Spanish territory off the West Coast of Africa. Bilateral efforts between Spain and some African countries, in particular Mauritania and Senegal has not succeeded to address the social, economic issues forcing the youth to flee the continent to seek their livelihood in Europe at great cost to their lives.
Promises by developed countries to increase development assistance and investment in African countries to provide job opportunities, as a long term measure, does not seem to address the concerns of the youth of today who are prepared to sacrifice their lives.
Immigration policies in Europe continue to be discriminatory, in particular against unskilled Africans. The member states of the African Union have to address this problem in a comprehensive manner, in order to attract African youth to use their skills and energy on the continent, instead of sacrificing their lives at sea.
Upon receipt of information on the human rights situation of detainees awaiting repatriation at the Lindela Repatriation Centre, for asylum seekers and illegal immigrants in South Africa, I wrote to the South African Government concerning a hunger strike and mishandling of inmates by the private contractor responsible for the Centre’s management. I have yet to receive a response on the issue. I will continue to remind the authorities of the Republic of South Africa about their obligation under the Charter to ensure that the institution adheres to the obligations towards asylum seekers in South Africa.
Banjul , The Gambia.
15 th November 2006.