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High Commissioner at OAU Summit in Zambia

Briefing notes

High Commissioner at OAU Summit in Zambia

10 July 2001

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers has urged African leaders to continue seeking solutions for the continent's many refugee crises. In meetings with African leaders during the summit of the Organisation of African Unity in Lusaka, Zambia, the High Commissioner called for a greater effort to resolve Africa's refugee-producing conflicts. He also urged Africa's leaders to allow local integration of those refugees who cannot go home.

In a one-on-one meeting with Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi, several issues were addressed, including funding problems and security of refugees and humanitarian workers. The High Commissioner called on the Kenyan government to work hand in hand with UNHCR to improve security in and around Kenya's refugee camps, which have recently seen a surge in violence, including cases of banditry and ethnic violence.

During a meeting with Sudanese President Oumar Ahmed Al-Bashir on Monday, the High Commissioner raised the issue of a possible repatriation of Ugandan refugees hosted by Sudan and the possibility of integration in Sudan of those Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees who do not wish to return home. Voluntary repatriation of some 175,000 Eritrean refugees from Sudan is presently underway, and UNHCR expects to terminate the operation by December 2002.

During a meeting with the donor community in Lusaka, the High Commissioner praised Zambia's hospitality towards refugees and the country's willingness to provide land for refugees who want to settle in Zambia. Zambia hosts some 260,000 refugees, the majority from Angola. In fact, in 1960s Zambia hosted the first refugee camp in Africa.

UNHCR welcomes the adoption by the OAU Council of Ministers meeting last week of a resolution reaffirming the OAU's support for on the 1951 Convention on Refugees which marks its 50th anniversary on July 28th. The resolution, which was presented by UNHCR, describes the Geneva Convention as the cornerstone of refugee protection. It also expresses commitment by African countries to the the global consultations launched by UNHCR on the application of the Convention in today's world. The resolution is expected to be officially adopted by the heads of state on Wednesday. A total of 48 out of 53 OAU members are signatories of the 1951 Convention