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The African Displacement Dispute Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Tiffany Ellis, Jan 22, 2007
Human Rights , Peace & Conflict   Opinions
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The African Displacement Dispute The involuntary displacement of people is a long-standing phenomenon. Throughout history, forces and factors have driven people from their normal and secure environments in search of more favorable locations that would support their survival. Although this is still a dynamic instigation, involuntary population displacement currently involves a wider range of concerns.

Today, people are forced to uproot from their physical, economic, social, cultural, and psychological homes as a consequence of social disorder, political instability, and economic impoverishment. While traditionally, displacement of people in Africa has resulted from life threatening circumstances, the process has evolved to reflect the challenges of the 21st century, becoming more of a concern than ever before.

The general concept of displacement has come to encompass all forms of disruptions, usually caused by natural disasters, development projects, conservation and preservation activities, planned resettlement programs, violence and conflict. As a consequence of displacement, a person is forced to leave his or her native place, a phenomenon known as forced migration. This is opposed to voluntary migration, a movement in which individuals and groups willingly decide to migrate in the complete absence of economic, political, cultural, and environmentally based `push' factors (Berhanu, 2000).

Forced migration generally refers to the movements of refugees and internally displaced people, as well as people displaced by natural, environmental, chemical or nuclear disasters, development projects, or famine. While this concept is rather intricate, it can be categorized into three types, based on causal factors: conflict, development, and disaster induced displacement (Refugee Study Center, 2004).

In conflict induced displacement, people are forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict including civil war, generalized violence, and persecution on the basis of nationality, religion, race, political opinion, or social group; state authorities are incapable or reluctant to provide them with protection. Many of these displaced people will seek refuge across international borders under international law or remain anonymous due to the fear that they will not be granted asylum (Refugee Study Center, 2004). Although Article II(1) of the Charter of the Organization of African Unity addresses a refugee's admission to safety in another country, stating that “member states of the OAU shall use their best endeavors consistent of those refugees who, well-founded reasons, are unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin or nationality”, “the non-mandatory character in its wording and the fact that the reception is made subject to national legislation may constitute a serious limitation” (Awuku, 1995). In other words, while international law seeks to regulate the question of asylum, the charter is too flexible, allowing a state to make its own interpretation.

With so many conflicts since the termination of the Cold War, displacement has increasingly become a strategic tactic frequently employed by all sides of the conflict; resulting in a significant increase in the number of refugees, and even more so in the amount of internally displaced persons (Refugee Study Center, 2004). Conflict-induced displacement is an important issue of present and future concern for it is expected to uproot millions.

While development programs are supposed to improve living conditions, it continues to cause displacement and impoverishment of millions each year. As a result of development-induced displacement, that is implemented policies and projects that are supposed to improve development, people are forced to move from their homes. In relocating, many of the affected remain within the borders of their native country, although some emigrate. This demonstrates both the lack of compensation and the lack of responsibility of host governments (Refugee Study Center, 2006).

For example, it is this failure of African states to publicly condemn breaches of human rights in their fellow countries on the basis that such condemnation is unjustifiable under O.A.U. Charter Article III(2) that gives rise to allegations of a "double standard" within the O.A.U. in condemning certain practices while overlooking the human rights atrocities within their own frontiers (D'Sa, 1985). The burden is thus placed on NGOs to bring attention to cases that concern systemic, serious, or massive human rights violations. This is no small burden and NGOs tend to avoid such recognition for fear of publically condemning specific states; outside intervention is also considered inappropriate for it encroaches on states' sovereignty (Mohamed, 1999).

Theoretically, development projects, such as infrastructure, public utilities, and highways, are undertaken by private sector corporations and are not supposed to displace people coercively by invoking the eminent domain principle. However, in practice this happens quite frequently, compounding the numbers of development-displaced people as a result (Ohta and Gebre, 2005).

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Great Panorama
Eugenia Bivines | Feb 20th, 2007
Theoretically, development projects, such as infrastructure, public utilities, and highways, are undertaken by private sector corporations and are not supposed to displace people coercively by invoking the eminent domain principle. Very Powerful Statement. Keejp up the good work!

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