Kenya: New Hope as African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons comes into force
13 Dec 2012
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ARTICLE 19 welcomes the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons. The treaty, which is also known as the Kampala Convention is the world’s first instrument to comprehensively address the IDP issues. It legally binds African governments to respect and protect the rights and well being of those forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence, national disasters or development projects. Crucially, the Kampala convention includes vital protection for the rights of IDPs to information and communication.
The Convention, hailed as historic milestone for the African continent, was first adopted in Uganda, Kampala in October 2009. The Convention, which required ratification from 15 countries, finally came into force on the 6th December 2012, after Swaziland became the 15th country to ratify the convention. Other countries that have ratified the convention include Uganda, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Zambia, Togo, Sierra Leone, Niger, Central Africa Republic and Zambia.
The Kampala Convention requests that governments ensure that IDPs’ rights are respected and protected, including their rights to information, communication and participation at all stages of displacement.
Kenya is one of 37 countries that has currently signed but not ratified the Convention, although it has experienced on many occasions the phenomenon of Internal Displacement.
‘The entry into force of the Kampala Convention is an important development for the African continent and heralds a new era in the protection and assistance of IDPs in Africa. The Convention establishes an appropriate legal framework that takes into account the rights of IDPs that have hitherto been neglected and overlooked, such as the rights of information and participation of IDPs in all spheres of life” Said Henry Maina, Director, Article 19 Eastern Africa.
“We urge the Kenyan government to join other African states in showing commitment in dealing with the recurrent problem of internal displacement in the country by immediately ratifying the Kampala Convention” added Maina.
Kenya’s ratification of the Kampala Convention is one of the recommendations put forward in a baseline report on “the Right to Information for Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya” launched by ARTICLE 19 in October 2012. The report provides comprehensive insight into the situations of IDPs with regard to their information needs and their involvement in policy formulation. It finds that that IDPs’ right to information has been particularly neglected and puts forward recommendations to be implemented by the Kenyan government, CSO’s and the media.
ARTICLE 19 has been working with Kenyan IDPs for the last 2 years in the context of a project that seeks to empower IDPs to claim their right to information and use it to access other rights, including civil, social and economic.
Kenya internal displacement has resulted over the years from a variety of causes, including election related violence, land and border disputes, development related evictions, cattle rustling and banditry and proliferation of small arms and weapons.
Election related violence remains the most common cause of displacement in Kenya, and it is estimated that 663,921 people were displaced during the post-election violence of 2007/2008 which remains the biggest wave of displacement witnessed in the country to date.
 Ministry Of State for Special Programmes Update on Resettlement of IDPs, 23rd May 2011