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Africa: Internal Displacement Update

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Apr 20, 2008 (080420)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

In 2007, close to half of the 26 million internally displaced people worldwide were in 20 African countries, according to the annual survey released on April 17 by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council. The countries most affected by new displacement in 2007 were Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while the countries with the highest totals of displaced people were Sudan, Colombia, Iraq, the DRC, and Uganda.

Within Africa, Sudan had the largest total number of displaced people, estimated at 5.8 million, while Somalia had the largest number newly displaced in 2007, estimated at 600,000.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains brief excerpts from the overview and Africa chapter of the IDMC's report. The full report is available on the IDMC website (

For additional sources on many of the countries mentioned, see the AfricaFocus country section at

Also in this AfricaFocus Bulletin: brief listings of recent articles commenting on crises in Somalia and Zimbabwe, and links to two recent publications by AfricaFocus editor William Minter.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@Editor's Picks: Crisis Updates@@@@@@@@@@@@@@


Newsweek April 12, 2008
"Washington wanted to keep Somalia from turning into another Afghanistan. Now It's an African Iraq"


Pambazuka News April 17, 2008
"Black America and Zimbabwe: Silence is not an answer",
including "Black Africa must not be silent," by Bill Fletcher, BlackCommentor "Justice for Zimbabwe: A Message of Solidarity," from Imani Countess, TransAfrica Forum

Independent Online (South Africa) April 19, 2008
"We Need Food, Not Guns" - South African unions block Chinese arms ship

Mmegi/The Reporter (Botswana) April 15, 2008
"Is Thabo Mbeki Still in Touch with Reality?"

Zimbabwe Independnt April 16, 2008
"Crisis, What Crisis?"

Business Day, April 19, 2008
"C is for 'crisis' and 'civil society' by Aubrey Matshiqi

AllAfrica.Blog April 19, 2008
"Govt Sources Confirm Terror Campaign"

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@End Editor's Picks: Crisis Updates@@@@@@@@@

@@@@@@@@@@Recent Publications by AfricaFocus Editor@@@@@@@@@@@

April, 2008 - Migration and Global Justice

Pamphlet written for American Friends Service Committee.
Available in html ( and pdf (

December, 2007 - "The Armored Bubble: Military Memoirs from Apartheid's Warriors"

Book review in African Studies Review.
Available in html ( and pdf (

@@@@@@@@@End Recent Publications by AfricaFocus Editor@@@@@@@@@@

Internal Displacement;
Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2007

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
Norwegian Refugee Council

[excerpts from findings, overview, and Africa chapter]

Findings of the report


In 2007, the estimated number of people internally displaced as a result of armed conflicts and violence passed the 26 million mark. This is the highest figure since the early 1990s, and marks a six per cent increase from the 2006 figure of 24.5 million. The increase resulted from a combination of continued high level of new displacements (3.7 million) and a lower level of return movements (2.7 million) in 2007.

At the end of 2007, Africa hosted almost half of the global IDP population (12.7 million) and generated nearly half of the world's newly displaced (1.6 million). Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were the African countries worst affected by new internal displacement in 2007.


Most forced internal displacement in the last decade was caused by internal rather than international armed conflicts. This trend continued in 2007. ... Many of the worst new displacement crises, including in Iraq, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan (Darfur) took place in countries where long-standing armed conflicts deteriorated during 2007.

Protection concerns

Often the most vulnerable as a result of conflict, internally displaced people frequently fell victim to the gravest human rights abuses. They were exposed to attacks, arbitrary arrest and detention, and had limited access to food, water, health care and shelter. Most or all IDPs in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia (Gambella and Somali regions), Iraq, Somalia and Sudan (Darfur) were persistently faced with such abuses. Displaced women and girls were at increased risk of sexual violence, including rape and exploitation. Perpetrators often enjoyed impunity for these violations. IDP women and girls were also exposed to signilicant health risks due to their lack of access to reproductive and maternal health care in areas of displacement. ...

Although international attention to the plight of IDPs continued to grow, there was no breakthrough in reducing the number of IDPs or measurably improving their situation. Displacement, in the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, remained "arguably the most signilicant humanitarian challenge that we face".

Global Developments: IDPs at serious risk

It is difficult to compare the severity of IDPs' situations in different countries, considering the diversity of the threats to their safety and wellbeing. ...

However, in seven situations (listed in alphabetical order), most or all IDPs faced recurrent and serious security and humanitarian risks : Central African Republic, DRC, Ethiopia (Gambella), Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan (Darfur)


Countries most affected by new conflict-induced displacement (and estimated numbers displaced in 2007)

Iraq (700,000)
Somalia (600,000)
Pakistan (500,000)
DRC (500,000)

Five countries with most IDPs

Sudan (5.8 million)
Columbia (up to 4 million)
Iraq (2.5 million)
DRC (1.4 million)
Uganda (1.3 million)

Internal Displacement in Africa

At the end of 2007, there were around 12.7 million IDPs in Africa, close to half of the people forcibly displaced worldwide. During the year, 1.6 million people were newly displaced across the continent, the highest number in any of the regions discussed in this report, as new or continuing armed conflicts and generalised violence caused displacement in 13 countries.

In 2007, close to half of the people displaced worldwide by conflict were in Africa, spread across 20 countries. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia and Sudan were among the five countries with most new displacements, while DRC, Somalia and Uganda each hosted a million or more IDPs by the end of the year. 5.8 million were forcibly displaced within Sudan's borders, in southern Sudan, Darfur and the capital Khartoum. Most IDPs were in Sub-Saharan Africa, where nine high-intensity violent conflicts were ongoing as governments and non-state actors battled for national, regional or local power and resources. In many areas, absence of state structures and pervasive lawlessness combined to expose IDPs, and particularly women and children among them, to extremes of violence and abuse.

Nonetheless, a number of countries with large displaced populations witnessed a year of peace following earlier conflict, and the long-term prospects of durable solutions for IDPs in Uganda, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and other countries improved. The millions of people displaced by Angola's long civil war could by 2007 be finally considered as "former IDPs" who shared the same recovery challenges as the rest of the population. However, the examples of all these countries showed that across Africa, national contexts of poverty, adverse climate and scarcity of resources, political instability and weak governance and justice systems make the end of displacement and the rebuilding of IDPs lives an enormous challenge for affected individuals and for those responsible for their protection and assistance.

The international community continued and in some areas intensified efforts to address displacement caused by conflict and violence across the region. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of people in several countries were displaced for the first time during 2007, and there were no significant improvements in the situations of millions more who were already victims of internal displacement.

Situations with new displacement

Somalia had the largest number of newly displaced people, with around 600,000 people forced to flee during 2007 (including 200,000 in November alone) as the Transitional Federal Government and its Ethiopian allies and the insurgents of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) battled for power in Mogadishu. Following sustained bombardment and street battles, the number displaced from the city and other areas of Somalia rose to one million people.

Sudan had the largest IDP population in the world, with 5.8 million people forcibly displaced within its borders. In Sudan’s Darfur region, over 280,000 people fled the fighting during 2007 as the security situation continued to deteriorate. 2007 ended with continuing clashes between Sudanese Armed Forces and armed rebel groups including the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and escalating tension between the governments of Sudan and Chad. The conflict had over five years forced over two million people to seek refuge in camps within Darfur, while a further quarter of a million had fled over the border into Chad. The huge IDP camps in Darfur were increasingly overcrowded and insecure, and humanitarian access remained severely limited ; during 2007, IDPs were in some cases forced to flee camps for their own safety and on occasion forcibly relocated by government forces. The year ended with the handover of peacekeeping authority from the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to the “hybrid” United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

In Chad, the number of IDPs increased from 100,000 at the end of 2006 to nearly 180,000 a year later. Intensive fighting between the army and a number of rebel groups continued through the year, while cross-border raids by Sudanese militias, and spiralling inter-communal violence all contributed to the increasing insecurity and forced more civilians to abandon their villages.

In Ethiopia's Somali Region, conflict between the government and the Ogaden National Liberation Front forced an unknown number of people to flee their homes. Elsewhere in the country, in Gambella, Oromiya, SNNPR and Tigray Regions, it is believed that at least 200,000 conflict-related IDPs were living in camps and informal settlements.

Other countries which already had displaced populations saw continuing smaller-scale violence which led their number to increase. In Burundi, some 100,000 people remained in the IDP sites where they had been living for years because of continuing economic insecurity and violence in their areas of origin. Meanwhile, a branch of the Front National de Libération (FNL) rebel group continued to launch sporadic attacks around the capital Bujumbura, and an estimated 4,000 people were temporarily displaced in mid-2007, while in October an unknown number of villagers around the capital were displaced during an army offensive. In Zimbabwe, new farm invasions and forced evictions in urban areas displaced an unknown number of people, adding to the estimated 570,000 people displaced by forced evictions in 2005 and the hundreds of thousands who lost their homes as a result of the fast-track land reform programme which started in 2000.

Kenya and Nigeria experienced political and intercommunal violence, notably related to elections, in 2007. The year ended with the displacement of around 100,000 people in Kenya in the immediate aftermath of the contested outcome of the December presidential election ; the figure quickly rose further during the first days of 2008. They joined the estimated 100,000 Kenyan IDPs already living in makeshift settlements, slums and abandoned buildings, and their displacement served as a reminder of the fragility of the ethnic and social balance in what has long been considered one of Africa’s most prosperous and stable states.

In Nigeria, the April 2007 general elections were considered as an opportunity to help resolve internal confl icts. However the Nigerian Red Cross reported that localised violence caused the displacement of around 4,500 people. In July, fighting over a protracted land dispute between indigenous groups and settlers in the border area between Benue, Taraba and Cross River States left possibly more than 3,000 people temporarily displaced, while. escalating tensions between local communities, national and local governments and oil companies in the Niger Delta region also caused new displacement. ...

Violence against displaced women and girls

The impact of displacement on the security and integrity of women and girls was huge. In Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, Burundi, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, women bore the brunt of conflicts and violent environments. With the burden of care resting with the mother following the separation of families, women were frequently forced into begging or prostitution, while displaced girls were hired out for child labour or forced into early marriage.

Displaced women and children continued to endure sexual violence, at the hands of opportunists taking advantage of an environment of conflict and lawlessness, or of combatants seeking to shame and break up family units and communities. Fear of sexual violence itself caused displacement as people fled to avoid sexuallymotivated attacks. The widespread sexual violence reported in DRC was an extreme but perhaps not a unique example. In DRC, 54,000 victims of sexual violence were identified from 2004 to March 2007, of whom 16 per cent were children. Many were raped while displaced by government troops, rebels loyal to General Nkunda or militias : in the first half of 2007, over 2,000 cases of rape were reported in North Kivu and 4,500 in South Kivu. Most rapes took place within IDP sites and camps or on the outskirts of villages in a context of total impunity. There was also widespread use of rape as an instrument of war in Darfur. The under-resourced African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) remained unable to prevent widespread sexual violence against women displaced into camps and forced to move gradually further to collect firewood.

Human Rights Watch reported in January 2007 on sexual violence in eastern Chad, whether "opportunistic, with attackers attacking women when they are in the fields [or] in the context of broader armed attacks". Their findings were likely to reflect under-reporting of sexual violence, as survivors are very often ashamed or otherwise unable to come forward to seek help.

In CAR, 12 per cent of women declared that they had survived sexual violence, while well over 15 per cent of women and girls endured gender-based violence in some conflict-affected areas in the north of the country. In Liberia, returning IDPs remained vulnerable, particularly teenage mothers, children and young girls, and a 2007 survey in displacement-affected Lofa county showed that over 60 per cent of women had been exposed to violence by intimate partners at some point in their lives. While positive steps were taken, with the adoption in December 2005 of new legislation that made rape illegal for the first time, gender-based violence was still rampant, mainly due to a persistent culture of impunity for sexual violence, and a judicial system which remained ineffective.

Access to food

IDPs in conflict areas faced serious difficulties in accessing food and ensuring food security. In a number of countries, insecurity impeding the access of humanitarian agencies further impaired their access to food assistance and other services.

For instance in Darfur, the UN estimated in May 2007 that 566,000 of the 4.1 million conflict-affected people were beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance. Consequently, malnutrition among IDPs passed emergency levels of global acute malnutrition and in 2007 child malnutrition rates reached emergency levels for the first time in three years. Access for humanitarian organisations worsened during 2007, until up to one million IDPs were out of reach of urgently needed assistance. In Somalia, a survey carried out in November 2007 among the IDP populations in Afgoye and Merca showed critical levels of malnutrition, in a region where 15 per cent of children under five already faced a high risk of starvation. In Cote d'Ivoire malnutrition rates remained high, especially in landlocked areas and where roadblocks and checkpoints prevented free movement.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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