By Suleiman Idris, Abuja
The African Union Commission has said that Africa must urgently confront structural root causes of instability in various parts of the continent to address the refugee crisis confronting many member states.
The Union lamented that Africa was host to more than 3.5 million refugees and 15 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), adding that future projections were more worrying, given the growing effects of climate change and new conflicts on the continent.
Minata Cesssouma, African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, stated this on Saturday at the opening of the 5th AU Annual Humanitarian Symposium in Nairobi, Kenya.
Cessouma, who was represented by Khabele Matlosa, AU Director of Political Affairs, said no country could achieve meaningful development in an atmosphere where majority of its people could not contribute to its development because they were either refugees living outside the country or internally displaced.
She added that “it is equally worrying when majority of displaced population are women, children and youth and the very fabrics of their lives are disrupted in terms of access to health and educational facilities.”
The AU commissioner said member states had in 2016 adopted Common African Position on Humanitarian Effectiveness which led to AU’s new humanitarian architecture to empower states in dealing with humanitarian issues.
She said the newly adopted tools should put the AU and member states on the path to strengthened humanitarian response on the continent.
She noted that “change in the way of humanitarian action in Africa is not an option. It is not only a matter of choice but rather a blueprint and a standing principle of Africa’s humanitarian action that the AU has embraced.”
She explained that this year’s symposium should identify innovative ways by which African countries could demonstrate international solidarity and responsibility sharing in delivering solutions to refugees trapped in protracted situations.
Cessouma urged participants to evolve ways to address the root causes of displacements to advance the creation of conducive conditions for voluntary repatriation of refugees to their countries of origin.
Abdi Affey, UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy to Somalia, said more than one third of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers’ population was generated by conflict, poor governance, natural disasters and environmental degradation.
He said Cameroon, Chad, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda host 4.9 million of Africa’s 5.6 million refugees.
He added that these countries already faced severe structural barriers to economic growth and development and had the least resources to respond to the needs of refugees, thus required international assistance to cope with the situation.
Kodeck Makori, Kenya’s acting Commissioner, Refugees Affairs Secretariat, who declared the symposium open, said, although it was part of African culture to share the little with others, there was need for international solidarity in addressing the movement of large number of refugees.
He said there was also the need to address the education needs of young refugees to enable them to become productive members of the society.