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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Statement on the occasion of the African Human Rights Day 2019


On 21 October of each year, Africa celebrates African Human Rights Day in commemoration of the adoption by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), predecessor to the African Union (AU), on this day of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, founding legal treaty of the African human rights system. Following the African Union theme for 2019, the “Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa,” the Commission marked the Africa Human Rights Day with two panel discussions: The first focusing on refugees in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the OAU Convention on Refugees and the second on internally displaced persons marking the 10th anniversary of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (Kampala Convention on IDPs).

The Commission expresses its deep concern about the worrying scale of internal displacement and flow of refugees and the inhumane conditions in which millions of IDPs and refugees, including children and women, find themselves. According to some reports, more than 3 million people have been displaced during only the first half of 2019, indicating the upsurge in sources of displacement on the continent. 

The gravity of the crisis of refugees and IDPs in Africa is deserving of the attention that the AU theme of the year has dedicated. The Commission underscores the imperative of not only effective and timely response to the needs of IDPs and refugees but also to initiate measures for the prevention, mitigation and resolution of the various sources and drivers of the phenomena of displacement and refugee flow.

In this respect the Commission  notes with serious concern the role of armed conflicts as major driver of displacement and refugees flaws in Africa, the existence of protracted conflicts that left millions of people in long term displacement or as refugees, and the escalating impact of the climate crisis in pushing people in climate affected areas out of their areas of residence.

The conflict situations in the Horn of Africa most notably in South Sudan, the proliferation of terrorist networks and attacks in West Africa and the Sahel regions, and the conflict in the Central African Republic continue to push people out of their homes, impeding the return of IDPs and refugees.   

The African Commission calls on all State Parties to ratify and safeguard the rights and principles, including non-refoulement and burden sharing, enshrined in the 1969 Convention on the Specific Aspects of African Refugees. The Commission also calls on States to ratify and implement the Kampala Convention.

On this Africa human rights day, the Commission also welcomes the operationalization by the Permanente Representative Committee (PRC) of the AU of its sub-committee on Democracy, Governance and Human Rights in October 2019 as an important platform for integrating the human rights work of the Commission into the policy processes of the AU and institutionalize mechanisms for follow up and implementation of decisions and recommendations. 

The Commission wishes everyone a happy African Human Rights Day.

Banjul, 22 October 2019