Today the world and Africa are celebrating « World refugee day» as Africans what this day means to us? And what consideration are we giving to this day?
This day should be considered as a depressed moment of the consolidation of man and women, forced to leave their respective countries to live elsewhere. The United Nations conference of plenipotentiaries on the status of refugees and stateless held at Geneva from 2 to 25 July 1951, and its 1967 protocol are the most comprehensive treaties that provide a definition of refugee, and spell out the legal status of refugee including their rights and obligations.
States that have acceded to 1951 convention are obliged by the international law to protect refugees on their territory and respect refugees’ basic human right, which should be at least equivalent to freedom enjoyed by foreign nationals living legally in a given country and, in many cases, to citizens of that state. South Africa who acceded to the 1951 convention and its 167 protocol on 12 Jan 1996 is one of the 145 states to ratify the international treaties on refugees.
Who is refugee? And why should Africa celebrated refugee day? A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular political party or social group. In occasion as such, African Nations should use it to strengthen political co-operation based on the promotion of Human Right in the Continent which can end all political conflict that are witnessed since the end of colonialism era, as Africa remains the continent which host most refugees than any other continent .
The United Nations established on 24 October 1945 with the aim of promoting international co-operation, prevent conflict, maintaining international peace and security, as well as promoting human rights, through its general assembly held on 04 December 2000, decided in the resolution 55/76 that, from 2001, 20 June would be celebrated as world refugee day. One is asking if it is enough to celebrate every June 20 without researching the sources of conflicts in Africa, or a comprehensive long term strategy need to be implemented in order to stop the reproduction of refugees that commonly is the result of political power dispute.
Since the end of colonialism era, Africa as a whole remains a continent where the transfer of political power mostly is done by military coup or trough fraudulent election. But what doesn’t appear right is the fact that many leaders in Africa who acceded to power trough military coup or fraudulent elections, still getting international and regional recognition while they are the source of reproduction of refugees.
In fact, every year they give speech at United Nations general assembly while their leadership dishonoured all international frameworks in terms of Human Right as well as the goals searches by the United Nations. Is the United Nations Security Council compromising to its mandate by allowing those leaders to take the stand at the UN General Assembly?
While many refugees in South Africa still struggling with their integration into communities, they are hoping and believing that things must come to normal in their countries so that they can return safely to participate in reconstruction and development.
This vision is not complying with the majorities of African leaders who are currently proceeding to the change of their constitutions which will allow them to remain in power which will reproduce many refugees again. What is wrong with African leaders? What is the role of the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the South African Development Community (SADC)? Why Africa remains unstable continent in terms of the transfer of political power?
Why in Africa we still observing fraudulent elections? Why in Africa we still have leaders that are in power for more than 30 years? If all these questions are addressed clearly, the reproduction of refugees will stop with immediate effect. Failure to address correctly and consequently we will always witness the reproduction of refugees; because Innocent people become victims when fraudulent elections are held or a military coup occurs which in most of the case force them to leave their countries on basic of seeking asylums elsewhere.
In occasion as such, the international community and other stake holders should evaluate the transfer of political power every time general elections have to be held in most dangerous countries such as DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Uganda, Burundi, Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Cameroun, Burkina Faso, as well as Rwanda and impose the implementation of international framework and consequences to leaders that violate the right of citizens.
The integration of refugees will always be an issue in the host countries such as Africa if all stakeholders do not play a crucial role by involving all South Africans citizens and explaining to them why the country host refugees. But it is important that all stakeholders reviewed the integration programmes contained in the treaties to reassure the safety and protection of refugees and asylum seekers as the 2008 xenophobic attack on refugees should be condemn and avoided. One should remember that a person remains human Being before he or she become refugee. Africans people should not only be celebrating June 20, but we should be using this opportunity to say no to all African dictators that are the cause of the massive refugees movement across the continent, and we should say no to any kind of violence on refugees as while they are victims on their soil, they cannot be victims again in the host country which guarantee them safety and refuges. The United Nations and all stake holders should double the effort to bring peace and stability in the Great Lakes region which will end the reproduction of refugees.
Leonard Mulunda Independent researcher in conflict affecting the Great Lakes Region of Africa.