Migration and Human Rights in Africa: The Policy and Legal Framework in Broad Strokes
Chapter in the book ‘African Migrants and the Refugee Crisis’, edited by Olayiwola Abegunrin and Sabella O. Abidde. Since most African states gained independence, immediately then and for so long afterward, the focus was dealing with the armed conflicts that were rampant across the continent. Consequently, the legal framework that first emanated from the regional governing body, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), with regard to migration, dealt with specific aspects of the refugee problem in Africa. Forced migration and how to deal with displaced populations was a pressing problem reflective of the political developments, thus soliciting coordinated responses from the regional political body, the OAU, which later metamorphosed into the African Union (AU). It was later recognized that while the continental legal framework recognized and sought to address aspects of external displacement, there was an even larger population of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who without any legal and policy framework, not only internationally but also domestically were virtually lacking any form of protection and standards that would compel the respective governments to respond to their needs. Thirty-nine years after the adoption of the Refugees Convention, the AU, in 2009, adopted the Convention for the protection and assistance of IDPs in Africa. A vast improvement on the Refugees Convention that tends to be very sketchy on the rights of refugees and attendant duties of the government, the IDP Convention has been lauded as an instrument that ‘provides a roadmap that dignifies the rights of peoples forced to flee at all points of their displacement’.