This year mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. The Convention was adopted by the OAU in 1969, where 46 out of the 55 AU member states have ratified it.
2019 is also the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the 2009 AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa ( Kampala
Convention). All relevant African Union documents, conventions and initiatives are available on RESOURCES page of this website
A welcome and much needed new development from the AU is the release of the Revised Migration Policy Framework for Africa and Plan of Action (2018 - 2027). The last Migration Policy Framework was in 2006 which was long overdue for revision. According to Amani Africa “The framework envisions coherent management of migration and harmonization of the different continental documents and initiatives on migration and movement and displacement. In terms of issues affecting the response of the AU to issues of migration…..the AU and its organs noted the related challenges of speaking with one voice due to varying interests and priorities of various AU actors and inadequate resources for supporting continental common positions, and the resultant donor dependency.” Like Agenda 2063, it is a rather ambitious document with broad visions to guide migration policies well into the next generation. With social, political and economic dynamics shifting more frequently and unevenly across the regions, it remains to be seen how well it will serve into the coming decade at least.
The African Union’s approach to migration needs to take into account sub-regional differences empowering RECs with more mandate to deal with unusual patterns in migration. For example, the Grate Lakes and Horn of Africa regions have unusually high rates of mobility. In its assessment at the end of 2018, UNHCR statistics for the year before show that there are 6.2 million refugees and asylum seekers in Africa, indicating a vast majority of African refugees are hosted in African countries. (Majority of sending countries: Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan)
The AU has declared this year as the African Union Year for Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons. The regional institution is going through much needed reforms and internal structuring which are overdue. Read Désiré Assogbavi analysis on The Reform of the African Union in 7 Questions for further details on AU reforms.
Much of the AU’s migration policy has not been considered in the interest of migrants and refugees but based on African governments’ national development and security needs. After returning from Vienna where he attended the Euro-Africa Summit, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, current chair of the African Union had strong words to say “Europe has a migration problem because it failed to address the issue early. Instead of helping Africa, it further impoverished the continent”. He called the policy “stunning hypocrisy” in its dealings with Africa and other “third world” countries. Read more of his statement here from MedAfrica.