Over the years, Africa has had to grapple with multifarious humanitarian situations arising from conflicts and natural disasters that have afflicted the continent, resulting in the massive displacement and flight of millions of peoples both within their territories and across borders. As a result, the continent has earned the reputation of being labelled the region with the highest number of internally displaced persons and refugees. Despite the fact that incidences of inter-state conflicts have been abating, the sad reality is that Africa still remains volatile with looming intra-state conflicts compounded by the effects of climate change, all of which result in new waves of forcibly displaced persons. What is pleasing is the fact that African nations and their peoples have always demonstrated compassion and solidarity in these circumstances. Indeed it is this sense of magnanimity to those in flight, anchored to strong values of our humanity that has propelled the continental organization to push the frontiers of international refugee law through the adoption of its 1969 Convention on certain aspects of the Refugee Convention and that has also informed the adoption of a convention on internally displaced persons, the first legally binding international instrument of its kind.
The African Union, through the efforts of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) working closely with Member States, has come up once again with what is perceived as a comprehensive strategy to address the issue of internally displaced persons. Entitled ‘The Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa’ or fondly referred to as ‘The Kampala Convention’, this home-grown initiative was the subject of lengthy discussions and intense negotiations, the final adoption of which constituted a crowning moment for the DPA.
I am therefore not only proud to have been a champion in this process but also pleased and honoured at the opportunity to present this piece of work by Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru, an African scholar, who himself has had first-hand experience in living as a victim of conflict and forced displacement. Through this research project, Dr. Mehari has certainly taken the lead in deepening our common understanding of the Kampala Convention. Providing the full background to the process that led to the adoption of the Kampala Convention, the book focuses on internal displacement and its governance in Africa. In his analysis, Dr. Mehari highlights the importance of the linkages with existing laws, in particular International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law, Refugee Law and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (GPID) to illustrate that the Convention, when applied in tandem with the existing laws, should bring about an improvement in the management of displacement. The book also projects the fundamental synergy between basic humanity, justice and law in protecting and providing for the forcibly displaced.
The Kampala Convention therefore represents a basis on which African countries could enrich their own domestic laws to manage more efficiently the phenomenon of internal displacement. As an important tool in the popularization of the Kampala Convention, Dr Mehari’s book stands to benefit governments and peoples across the Continent, while contributing to the discourse on this very important subject matter. I therefore recommend it to all scholars and those interested in humanitarian affairs in Africa.
Read or download the book at The Kampala Convention and Its Contributions to International Law