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» 05.10.2009 - Maximise gains and protect rights of migrants, HDR

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Society | Politics

Fewer internal displacements in Africa

In post-war Angola, returnee children pass a wrecked panzer on their way to the reconstructed school

© UNICEF Deutschland/afrol News
afrol News, 15 July
- While internal displacements continue to rise in the world at large, Africa has seen a slow but marked decrease in the number of internal "refugees" during the last decade. Africa has become more peaceful.

This is one of the conclusions in a 2001-09 overview of internally displaced persons due to conflict and violence, made available to afrol News today by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

The numbers reflect an impression of an African continent that has become more peaceful during the last decade, with many of its principal wars and civil wars ending or being scaled down.

While most countries hosting a major number of internally displaced persons in 2001 saw a big reduction in numbers, a few new centres of crisis however have emerged, as the NRC compilation shows. In Africa, Sudan and Somalia topped the list, with numbers strongly increasing in Somalia during the period.

In most Africa countries affected by conflict, the compilation however is positive reading. Especially in West Africa, the numbers of internally displaced persons was drastically reduced.

Sierra Leone had 1.3 million displaced in 2001, which has been reduced to zero by now. In Liberia, displacements reached 500,000 in 2003, while the undetermined number now is going towards zero. Guinea reduced its numbers of displaced from 400,000 in 2001 to zero already in 2007.

Also in West Africa, Senegal is still seeing varying numbers of internally displaced, reaching peaks in 2005 and 2008, with up to 70,000 persons affected. Since 2009, numbers however are pointing downwards. Also in Nigeria, the undetermined number is annually fluctuating, probably around 200,000 displaced.

Côte d'Ivoire registered the region's highest growth in displaced persons, from zero in 2001 to a peak of 750,000 in 2006. Since that, and despite the inability to find a solution to the Ivorian crisis, numbers of internally displaced has also been slowly reduced here.

Even in Central Africa, the trend is slowly moving in a positive direction. Rwanda's internally displaced population has been reduced by several hundred thousands, closing into zero, in the period. Burundi's internal displaced were reduced from 633,000 to 100,000 from 2001 to 2009. Ugandan numbers were reduced from a 2005 peak of 1.7 million to a current 400,000.

The centre of trouble in the region continues to be the DR Congo, where numbers still are fluctuating. The DRC had 3 million internally displaced in 2002, which was reduced to 1.1 million in 2006, but which again increased to 1.9 million in 2009. Meanwhile, Congo Brazzaville has reduced numbers of displaced from 150,000 to almost zero.

Southern Africa at the same time saw the greatest reduction in internally displaced as Angola, ending its age-long civil war, almost has completely done away with its 3 million internally displaced persons. This was however countered by negative developments in Zimbabwe, where almost 1 million persons were displaced from 2002-09.

Another new crisis emerging in the otherwise peace-promoting period was in Kenya, which saw a surge in internal displacements. Numbers grew from 100,000 in 2001 to an estimated 600,000 in 2008, when the crisis was at its peak.

The worst African region continues to be the Horn, with Sudan being the country hosting most internally displaced persons on the continent. Numbers grew from 4 million in 2001, reaching a peak of 5.8 million in 2007 and slowly detracting to 4.9 million in 2009. Sudan therefore continues to host the continent's worst humanitarian crisis.

Somalia sees the worst development in the Horn region. Here, the number of displaced grew from 300,000 in 2001 to an estimated 1.5 million in 2009. Throughout the decade, the numbers have been steadily increasing, with a jump from 2006 to 2007.

In the aftermath of the Eritrean-Ethiopian war, Eritrea has been able to reduce its internally displaced to only around 10,000. In Ethiopia, however, local conflicts have led the numbers grow from 50,000 to 350,000 from 2001-09.

All in all, the NRC compilation shows that Africa has been able to limit the negative effects of its armed conflicts during the last decade, being especially successful in West Africa and seeing some progress in Central Africa. The Horn region however has sunk even deeper into conflict.

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