The global number of people internally displaced by violence; armed conflict; natural disaster; inter alia; stood at 26.4 million, a number that surpasses global estimates of refugees. This number is approximately 6 million larger than the figure at the fall of 1999. Displacement exposes IDPS to new hazards and accrued vulnerability and has been one of major focus of the IOLDCs.
To date, there is no universal convention or international binding instrument that governs the issue of IDPs. Nevertheless, IDPs are protected by international human rights law and domestic law. In armed conflict situation, the IDPs are protected under the international humanitarian law. In addition, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which were developed in accordance with the aforementioned bodies of law, has been proven to be useful in providing guidance related to this matter.
According to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, Internally displaced persons "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.
While being an apparent humanitarian crisis, forced displacement also has a tremendous developmental impacts affecting economic growth, poverty alleviation, human and social capital, and environmental sustainability. The IDPs are very vulnerable to fall into the categories of the poorest with lack of access to basic services. Thus, the mitigation of this issue will also contribute in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
The Horn of Africa has been one of the regions with severe IDPs problems. Violent conflicts over access to natural resources and political power, amongst other, are major causes of most of these displacements. Furthermore, drought across the Horn of Africa has resulted in famine in southern and central regions, causing food insecurity in IDPs settlements.
To mitigate this problem, 33 of 53 African Union member states had signed the AU’s Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention).
In various resources, Djibouti is not listed as country with significant number of IDPs. Instead, Djibouti is a host country of fleeing refugees from countries bordering its territory.
Disputes between Eritrea and Ethiopia over border town of Badme erupted in 1998 and led to open violent enmities. Thousands of people of both sides were killed and over a million Eritrean has been internally displaced. After the peace deal in 2000, the Government had taken measures to immediately resettle and return the IDPs. In 2010, UN agencies proclaimed that IDPs are either resettled or returned and there is no IDP camp left. However, other sources reported that small number of IDPs are not yet returned or resettled; most of them are concentrated in cities such as Asmara and Massawa.
Eritrea is not yet a part of the Kampala Convention, the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, or the 1969 African Union Convention Governing the Specific Aspect of the Refugee Problem in Africa
Internal displacement in Ethiopia mostly began at the time of war with Somalia in the late 1970s. Two decades later, this problem is further aggravated with the open hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea on a disputed border area. 350,000 people were displaced on the Ethiopian side alone. Internally, Ethiopia has also experienced conflicts amongst ethnic groups over resources and political power. Due to the limited access and resources, the magnitude of the displacement is difficult to identify. As of December 2011, reports from humanitarian organizations estimated that 300, 000 people remained internally displaced.
Even though ratification has not taken place, Ethiopia is one of the signatories of the Kampala Convention.
In 2011, approximately 350,000 people were newly displaced in South Sudan. Majority of the IDPs were displaced by conflict between the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and new South Sudanese militia groups in Unity and Upper Nile, inter-tribal violence in Jonglei, Lakes, Unity and Warrap, and attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Western Bahr el-Ghazal and Western Equator. This figure also included 110, 000 people displaced by the conflict between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the SPLA in Abyei. By the end of 2011, the UN estimated 360,000 IDPs have returned to South Sudan, however, they resettled in the border area where there is no access to basic services and economic opportunities.
Approximately 2.2 million people were internally displaced in Sudan at the end of 2011. This number encompasses 1.9 million IDPs in Darfur, 200,000 IDPs in South Kordofan, and 66,000 IDPs in Blue Nile. The UN and international NGOs had difficulty in verifying these figures because they were unable to gain access to the communities. However, they concluded that the situation of IDPs in Sudan is in urgent need for assistance.
Somalia has the largest percentage (mounting to 16%) of IDPs compared to any other countries in the world. This condition worsens in 2011 when drought and famine hit across the Horn of Africa. The aforementioned famine jeopardizes the live of 1.5 million displaced people in the country. Moreover, IDPs in Somalia are also facing severe risks due to the ongoing conflict and living condition. IDP camps have been attacked by parties of the conflict. Sexual and gender-based violence took place; children were also recruited to join the force. From health sector, IDPs living in the Southern part of Sudan are vulnerable to outbreaks of cholera, diarrhea, malaria, measles and pneumonia. Somalia signed the Kampala Convention even though ratification has not taken place. Implementation of this convention, in either case, will continue to be a challenge.
An unknown number of people left their town and cities when the conflict in northern Uganda between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army) LRA began in 1988. Larger displacement took place a decade after when in 1996, the government forced people in the Acholi region in the North to more into camps as instructed by its “protected villages” policy. By the end of 2011, approximately 1.8 million IDPs in camps had returned to the area of origin or resettled in new locations. However, the returned IDPs have not enjoyed adequate basic services and economic opportunities to build and sustain their livelihoods. There are remaining IDPs in the camps that are not able to return due to health conditions or because they have no land to go to. Many widows and orphans cannot reclaim ownership of the property of their husbands and fathers.
The country is a party to the Great Lakes Pact, and in January 2010 Uganda became the first country to ratify the Kampala Convention.