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The African Displacement Dispute Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Tiffany Ellis, Jan 22, 2007
Human Rights , Peace & Conflict   Opinions


The African Displacement Dispute
Were African states actually in conjunction with their formal agreements, the dissolution of their initial agreement would never have occurred. In this view it should have been the duty of Eritrea and Sudan to preserve the memorandum of understanding in order to reassure refugees and facilitate voluntary repatriation (Bulcha, 1988). In reality, however, in a politically unstable environment, conflict tends to preside over human rights, and hence the African refugee problem persists.

Even though the promised organized repatriation failed, and despite the high risk of failure and impoverishment, many refugees returned homewards without any international assistance. In time, the refugee's efforts were reinforced by an area-based holistic development approach adopted by the Eritrean Government in the returnee-receiving areas (Ohta & Gebre, 2005). The government's approach was meant to generate social and economic capacities for absorption by simultaneously addressing the social, economic, and environmental problems that had contributed to the dilemma of population displacement. This approach is imperative because, for voluntary repatriation to be successful, the problems that caused people to flee their country must be resolved.

In order to solve refugee problems, it is imperative that African states address the root causes of refugee movements (Awuku, 1995). All residents, regardless of status, were anticipated to benefit from the newly
created opportunities in the areas of return. By not discriminating in the name of development, the government is worthy of emulation, for even though this policy is laid down in the African Charter, few states uphold it. Compounding this is the fact that the Commission does not have the powers to enforce its regulations. Even though the effects of the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia undermined most of these achievements, it is important to take into account where the government implemented effective measures (Awuku, 1995). The situation of Eritrean refugees was due to political instability; it is this root-cause that must be addressed.

Forced displacement may result when governments use population relocations or resettlements as a political weapon to weaken nationalist or ethnic movements. In the mid-1980s the military government of Ethiopia, the Derg, forcibly relocated hundreds of thousands of famine-affected Ethiopians from drought-prone zones to southwestern and southern Ethiopia where land and rainfall were thought to be plentiful; if they refused to resettle, they would be conscripted into the army (Berhanu, 2000). The 1985 large-scale planned resettlement program, the government's supposed response to the 1984/1985 famine, was centered on agricultural undertakings that were envisioned to improve and ultimately allow the recipients to be self-sufficient. While the government claimed that its chief objective was to avoid the recurrence of famine and to sweep away its devastating effects in a durable manner, the 1985 resettlement became a controversial and politically sensitive matter for it was also argued that the government may have planned collateral advantages of resettlement; development displacees resulted from development policies and projects. In this view, the operation was actually intended to remove people from insurgency areas and to use the relocatees as a shield against insurgency. The 1985 resettlement program can therefore be seen as driven by a mix of both humanitarian and political imperatives (Ohta & Gebre, 2005). With regards to the African problem of forced displacement, this demonstrates that when African governments use the instruments of power to them for repressive purpose, the number of African displaced persons will only grow.

While there is no easy solution to the displacement problem in Africa, a number of proposals can be considered if this issue is to be addressed. The international community needs to pay greater attention to resolving the conflicts at hand, for these are largely the root of protracted displacement situations; when allowed to fester, they become unmanageable, and are left unresolved. The international community must maintain and promote the principle of voluntary repatriation; however, this must be accompanied by national rehabilitation and reconstruction. Alternative solutions, such as local integration, must also be explored. Subsequently, pending voluntary return, self-reliance should be promoted (Ohta & Gebre, 2005). A longer-term and more ambitious approach needs to be taken on for this to be made possible because the root of the causes of displacement must be addressed. The consistent increase in the number of displaced persons in Africa can be attributed to political-economic problems and contradictions that mark governance in Africa in general. While such conditions persist, compounded by natural disasters, the problem will continue unabated, and even contribute to the growing number of displaced persons.


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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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