Africa is home to more than 1.287 billion people and considered to be the birthplace of humankind. It is also regarded to be the oldest inhabited area on the planet.
Africa consists of more than 50 countries and outsizes China, the whole of Eastern Europe, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the UK and the United States combined! Culturally, religiously, politically and socially Africa is quite heterogeneous – no wonder, acknowledging its size and the number of states; nonetheless, it is often referred to as if it was a homogeneous place: one country even and its inhabitants referred to as Africans.
In the past decades the term “Africa” has become a synonym for poverty, corruption and violence. This is not accurate, however some regions and countries have grave problems.
Currently, more than 20 African countries are involved in different armed conflicts. In this context, a conflict must be understood as “a violent and armed confrontation and struggle between groups, between the state and one or more groups, and between two or more states.” Most of them include a multitude of stakeholders: government forces, paramilitary fighters, militias, criminal gangs and terrorist groups. All parties, one way or another, are involved in civil wars, insurgencies and smaller conflicts — some of them continuing for decades.
Somali Civil War is one of the oldest ongoing conflicts on the continent. Its origin dates back to 1991 and has taken 500,000 lives. Imagine that people, who are younger than 27 years old, have never experienced what peace looks like. If nothing changes, the same might happen in the Lake Chad Basin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan and the Horn of Africa.
Matthew Clancy, humanitarian policy spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, observes, “while natural disasters often trigger international media attention and funding, protracted conflicts like the Democratic Republic of Congo rarely make the headlines,” adding, “they are neglected by the international community, despite the fact that violence is fuelling a massive humanitarian crisis in which millions are uprooted from their homes.” Weak governance, ineffective institutions, as well as high levels of corruption and failing economies, immensely contribute to it, making the continent a fertile ground for instability.
Africa hosts 48% of all the conflicts currently ongoing in the world, mainly in Sub-Saharan region. As a result, 5.5 million new displacements, associated with conflict and violence were recorded in 2017 by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). That´s twice the figure of the previous years and the highest in the world.
7 out of top 10 refugee camps worldwide are located in Africa.
Bidi Bidi in the Northwestern of Uganda is the most populous of all refugee camps on the continent and the second largest in the world after Kutupalong in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh. It is home to over 285,000 refugees, officially.
Forced displacement is projected to be long lasting as more than 80% of refugee crises continue for ten years or longer. Africa is a living proof of it. A change in course is therefore desperately needed.
Those ongoing conflicts will not end tomorrow; thus, instead of undermining human rights and democracy beyond borders, reasons of fleeing need to be eliminated. On first sight it might seem like there isn´t much we could do about it. However, even small decisions we take in our everyday life do have an impact on the lives and living conditions of others in other parts of the world.
For instance, it is within our range of possibilities to decide, whether we buy conventional or fair trade products, thus deciding if the producers can work in a health sustaining environment and are given life sustaining wages in their home countries. Supporting fair trade is therefore not only good for one´s own conscience but also reduce reasons for people to leave their home countries – a decision that is never easy.
Until such changes are made and have a positive effect, safe and legal passage for refugees to “safe havens” as well as access to social and legal support are necessary.
Article by Mantas Stočkus