By Addis Getachew
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
The rights of Africa’s 12 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are often ignored and their demands are left unmet, International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer said in a new report released Wednesday.
Maurer presented the report to the African Union Peace and Security Council, which focused on the implementation of the Kampala treaty – an African Union treaty signed in 2009 to protect the IDPs and provide them access to humanitarian services.
He noted that armed conflict had been one of the major causes of internal displacement in Africa.
“These challenges arise with respect to IDPs’ movements both en route to the place of displacement and at the place of displacement – [particularly during movements in and out of IDP camps] – as well as in the screening of IDPs,” the report said, without listing any specific countries.
“The rights of the IDPs are not always fully understood or respected in practice, with the result that consideration of these rights, when faced with security concerns, may be less rigorous than is required.
“One very real and practical challenge during armed conflict is that of maintaining the strictly civilian and humanitarian character of IDP camps and other settings,” it said, noting the permanent presence of armed forces inside such camps.
Speaking at a news conference after meeting the AU Security Council, Maurer said: “Often states lack legal and policy frameworks to respond to the needs of IDPs.”
The ICRC chief, who visited Nigeria and Niger, added: “Authorities should consult and actively engage with IDPs and host communities to ensure their participation in decision-making. All ages, genders, religious and ethnic groups should be included.”
He gave the example of Mali where, he said, authorities had organized mobile schools to allow internally displaced youth to continue their education; Ethiopian authorities too “have allowed IDP children without identity documents to attend school, avoiding a disruption to their education.”