AU meet stresses need for solidarity and responsibility sharing to help end forced displacement in Africa

“This is a clear example of an African solution to a situation where our brothers and sisters were clearly suffering” Clementine Nkweta-Salami

KIGALI: Participants at a two-day African Union (AU) meeting in Rwanda have stressed the need to boost solidarity and responsibility sharing in the search for solutions to forced displacement across Africa.

As potent example, Clementine Nkweta-Salami from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, highlighted the role played by Niger and Rwanda in evacuating refugees from deplorable detention centres in Libya. Rwanda has since September evacuated dozens of refugees to the Gashore Transit Centre under an agreement signed with UNHCR and the AU.

“This is a clear example of an African solution to a situation where our brothers and sisters were clearly suffering,” she told some 170 delegates at the Continental Consultative Meeting (CCM), an event organized with support from UNHCR to mark the AU’s 2019 theme of searching for solutions to forced displacement in Africa.

“Thanks to the courage of these two governments, many lives have been saved and hope for the future has been restored,” added Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR Regional Director for the East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region, who visited the Gashora centre earlier in the week with other CCM participants, many of whom echoed her thoughts.

Panelists at the Continental Consultative Meeting on Global Solidarity and Responsibility Sharing to tackle root causes of forced displacement and find solutions in Africa: Supporting local ownership, socio-economic inclusion and durable solutions. ©UNHCR Liaison Office to the AU

Niger set up its Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in November 2017. A memorandum of understanding between UNHCR and Niger provided the policy framework for the implementation of the ETM. “This is our commitment and a reflection of Pan-African solidarity and patriotism,” said Harou Abdou Salam, director of refugees at Niger’s Ministry of Interior. Since the start of the evacuation operation from Libya in late 2017, a total of 2,913 people (including unaccompanied children) have been evacuated to Niger.

Opening the CCM on Thursday, Rwanda’s Minister for Emergency Management and Refugee Affairs, H.E. Germaine Kamayirese, highlighted the benefits provided to the almost 200 refugees who have been moved so far to Gashore.

“I wish to see African peace builders and peace makers,” Kamayirese called on delegates, while adding that she hoped to see a permanent solution to forced displacement. “I wish to see no refugee and no IDP [internally displaced person] in Africa.”

Current and former refugees also shared their experiences. One of them, Maia Juliet from South Sudan, lauded her host country Uganda for its generosity. “I have also been able to work which has allowed me to contribute to the refugee community and to Uganda.”

The CCM in Kigali was organized by the AU Commission, UNHCR and Africa Humanitarian Action (AHA), an Addis Ababa-based NGO marking its 25th anniversary this year.  The meeting brought together AU personnel, African diplomats, aid workers, UN staff, academics, civil society representatives, development actors, media and refugees. It featured panel discussions on responsibility sharing, including on continental and regional solidarity and partnership. The meeting aimed to galvanize support for local ownership, socio-economic inclusion and durable solutions. An outcome document will be distributed at the end of the CCM, with reflections and recommendations.

Rwanda is home to more than 170,000 refugees and asylum-seekers mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As of the end of 2018, Africa hosted almost 7.4 million refugees and asylum seekers, and 17.8 million IDPs assisted by UNHCR.