A leading source of information analysis on internal displacement worldwide, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) says African leaders do not have the needed political will to address the continent's displacement crisis comprehensively.
Their report on the situation in the last quarter of 2017 shows that better evidence and data can help to inform more appropriate responses, stressing that what is needed most of all is a renewal of political will across Africa to address the problem.
In a foreword to the report, African Union Commission's Commissioner for Political Affairs, Minata Samate Cessouma said, ''we have to build capacity in collecting and analysing data on internal displacement at the national and regional level.
''Data collection is a priority area in the Harare Plan of Action. The data challenges presented in this report show that there is some way to go yet when it comes to understanding the scale and nature of internal displacement in Africa.
''It is in our countries’ own interest to meet these challenges as we progress towards reducing poverty, improving access to basic services and employment, and accelerating economic growth and prosperity for all''.
The report, however, reveals that 2.7 million people in the continent fled conflict, violence and disasters. The figure includes 997,000 new displacements associated with conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than in the whole of 2016, and 206,000 in the Central African Republic, four times the figure for the previous year.
Africa is in the midst of a deepening displacement crisis. An estimated 12.6 million people were uprooted by conflict, violence and disasters as of the end of 2016. Unresolved conflicts across the continent are driving the highest level of related displacement in the world, with 2.6 million people forced to flee their homes in 2016.
The figures for 2016 are higher than those for 2015, and early figures for 2017 suggest they are higher still. Behind the numbers are millions of girls, boys, women and men, many of whom have lost their homes, livelihoods and communities, and face years if not decades of upheaval in protracted displacement.
Interestingly, African countries showed leadership in 2009 by adopting the Kampala Convention, and the political will they demonstrated in agreeing the world’s first regional treaty on internal displacement is needed now more than ever.
The year 2019 will mark the 10th anniversary of its adoption, and urgent action is required to make progress turning its commitments into reality for the continent’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Full ratification will be a significant first step, but the implementation is more important still.
Every displacement is much more than a personal tragedy. According to the IDMC report, ''displacement reverses development gains and has profound implications for the future achievement of targets in many
African countries and regions.
''The scale of displacement and its causes and consequences are beyond the scope of humanitarian action alone. Indeed, such an approach to what is essentially a development problem risks perpetuating the drivers and triggers that result in displacement.
''The complex underlying drivers and long-term implications of the phenomenon have been ignored for too long. The skills, mandates and capacities of a range of humanitarian, development and political stakeholders are required to address the factors that give rise to and sustain displacement across Africa''.
The figures set out in the report are already alarming, but they undoubtedly tend to underestimate the scale of displacement. That caused by slow-onset disasters and development projects is not recorded, and the number of people who remain displaced following sudden-onset disasters is unknown.