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Figures and causes
There were over 10.4 million IDPs in the 18 sub-Saharan countries IDMC monitored in 2012, almost a third of the global total. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan and Somalia continued to have Africa’s largest internally displaced populations, and among the largest in the world. Displacement in Nigeria was also known to be significant, but no reliable figures were available.
The sharp increase in the number of IDPs, up 7.5 per cent from 9.7 million at the end of 2011, reversed a steady downward trend in the region since 2004, and was linked to worsening conflict and violence throughout sub-Saharan Africa. According to authoritative sources, there were more highly violent conflicts in Africa in 2012 than at any time since 1945.
The conflict in eastern DRC intensified dramatically during 2012, and a new one broke out in northern Mali at the beginning of the year. Violence by militant groups increased in Nigeria, and South Sudan experienced tensions, both internal over natural resources and with Sudan over contested border areas and the Higlig region. The causes of these and other conflicts, and more localised clashes, violence and human rights abuses that led to displacement include struggles for political power, ideological domination and natural resources, inter-communal violence often linked to land disputes and criminal activity.
Sudden and slow-onset natural hazards also forced people to flee, in some cases affecting those already displaced by conflict and violence. Unprecedented floods caused massive displacement in Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan and Sudan. Drought and resource depletion caused the displacement of pastoralists in northern Kenya, and compounded the dynamics of violence throughout the region. The famine in the Horn of Africa was declared over in 2012, but extended drought in the Sahel caused food insecurity in eight countries, coinciding with the spread across borders of violence and instability.
The largest new displacement in the region took place in eastern DRC, where a million people fled worsening violence in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Orientale and Katanga, bringing the total number of IDPs in the country to about 2.7 million. The March 23 Movement (M23), a new rebel group formed in April, attacked the North Kivu capital of Goma in November. The flare-up in conflict displaced 140,000 people in a week; many of them were IDPs living in a large camp on the outskirts of the city.
Close to 230,000 people fled northern Mali throughout the year to escape the uprising by Tuareg rebels early in 2012 and widespread abuses by militant Islamist groups which took control of vast parts of the country in June. Most IDPs fled to the south and the majority were unable to return or achieve other solutions to their displacement.
In Nigeria, increased violence by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, inter-communal violence between Christians and Muslims and clashes between farmers and pastoralists led to burgeoning displacement. The government is yet to compile reliable figures, but at least 63,000 people were documented as newly displaced by violence.
Fighting over natural resources and an ongoing uprising in South Sudan displaced over 190,000 people, while in Kenya inter-communal violence and clashes over natural resources forced 118,000 to flee. The violence in Kenya was compounded by ethnic and political factors linked to the March 2013 elections. In Central African Republic (CAR), as many as 106,000 people were displaced by various forms of violence, including tens of thousands who fled the march of Séléka, a coalition of armed groups, on the capital Bangui in December. In Sudan, inter-communal violence and fresh clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups forced around 90,000 to flee their homes in Darfur.
There were also considerable return movements, though a lack of reliable data, access restrictions and in some cases the repeated displacement of those affected made figures hard to verify. An estimated 450,000 IDPs returned to their places of origin in DRC, about 155,000 South Sudanese former IDPs went home from Sudan, 21,000 IDPs returned within South Sudan and up to 91,000 IDPs returned in Darfur. Around 36,000 people reportedly returned in Chad, and a similar number in CAR following a demobilisation process in the north of the country. In Somalia, the figure was around 32,000.
IDPs continued to face threats to their physical security in 2012. In at least eight countries, including DRC, Mali, South Sudan and Sudan, where some of the worst violence and conflict took place, people fled armed attacks and clashes, forced recruitment, arbitrary killings, sexual violence and abductions. IDPs faced similar threats in CAR, Chad, DRC, Mali, Somalia and Sudan, while in DRC people returning to their places of origin were also affected. In DRC, IDPs faced discrimination because they were seen as a source of further insecurity.
As in previous years, gender-based violence (GBV) was widespread in DRC. During the violence that erupted in North Kivu in November, both M23 and government forces were accused of perpetrating sexual violence, including against IDPs. In Mali, GBV was a significant cause of displacement, a threat during displacement and an obstacle to return. In Côte d’Ivoire, there was a lack of assistance for women affected by GBV in previous years.
Prospects for durable solutions
Progress towards durable solutions in countries where conflict had ended was limited during 2012. In countries with ongoing conflict, people already displaced for years struggled to achieve them alongside those newly displaced. As of the end of the year, IDPs were living in protracted displacement in 15 countries, evidence of the obstacles they face in their search for durable solutions as well as their continued marginalisation.
Uganda has been at the forefront of the region’s response to internal displacement. It adopted a policy on IDPs in 2004 and was the first country to ratify the Kampala Convention. Its recovery and development efforts have, however, been insufficient. Returning IDPs continue to suffer inadequate basic services and receive only limited support to rebuild their livelihoods. Accusations of serious corruption at the highest levels of government led donors to withhold funding at the end of 2012, crippling further recovery efforts.
The international humanitarian community in Burundi wound down its operations in 2012, but it was unclear to what extent national authorities and both national and international development agencies would lead longer-term engagement in support of durable solutions.
In DRC, at least two-thirds of IDPs are thought to have suffered multiple displacements, either repeatedly from their places of origin or onwards from their places of refuge. Clearly the prospects for durable solutions in such circumstances are remote.
Côte d’Ivoire, meanwhile, was one of three countries globally chosen to roll out the UN Secretary General’s landmark framework to end displacement in the two-year aftermath of conflict.
Several countries, and the AU as a whole, reached important milestones in terms of framing cohesive responses to internal displacement. The Kampala Convention came into force on 6 December, and by the end of the year 16 countries had ratified it: Benin, Burkina Faso, CAR, Chad, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.
By ratifying the world’s first continental treaty on internal displacement, they have made a legal commitment to address all causes comprehensively. They have also committed to assisting and protecting IDPs and their human rights, including the creation of safe and sustainable conditions for voluntary return, local integration or settlement elsewhere in the country.
The Kampala Convention also requires states to adopt legislation and policy on internal displacement, designate a coordinating body for all related issues and provide the necessary funds for protection and assistance. Nigeria took steps to implement its obligations in 2012 by revising a draft policy on IDPs to bring it into line with the convention, but the country’s cabinet was still to pass it as of the end of the year. Although it has not ratified the convention, the Kenyan government adopted a national policy on IDPs in October, and was in the final stages of adopting a new law governing their protection and assistance.
Countries with large numbers of IDPs but which were still to ratify the Kampala Convention include Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
Supporting IDPs through effective responses from the start of their displacement all the way through to their achievement of a durable solution remains a challenge throughout the region. Following the onset of violence in Mali in early 2012, development organisations already on the ground proved ill-equipped to provide an efficient response to the displacement the conflict caused.
Main donor countries made progress in 2012 in reframing their assistance and support during crises and emergencies to better help people overcome chronic vulnerability through a resilience approach. Given the extent of protracted displacement and conflict in a region where recurring cycles of natural hazards increase vulnerability, such an approach offers a promising way to work towards durable solutions.
The international emergency response to internal displacement was coordinated through the cluster approach in CAR, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe.