A glimpse of how the Kampala Convention protects internally displaced women in Nigeria

By Anya Itse

Africa has been quite replete with border conflicts, ethnic clashes, religious crises, post-election violence, and insurgency. The risks associated with those mentioned above are forced migration and internal displacement. Displaced persons can be categorized into two namely refugees and internally displaced persons. As the verb displace implies, displaced persons are psychologically, physically, financially, and socially displaced. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are individuals compelled to leave their communities or homes but resident within their respective states or countries at large mainly due to or to prevent the ongoing or post-conflict effects of armed war, generalized violent circumstances, human rights abuses, natural or man-made calamities (Akuto, 2017).

Globally, women and children are the most (arguably) affected in any conflict-riddled state or nation, and because of their children, they bear more burns. An examination of the guidelines for internally displaced women in the 2009 Kampala Convention (KC) may be found in the journal article Engendering Protection. According to Groth (2011), women are the most vulnerable group to experience displacement.

The Kampala Convention
Generally referred to as the African Union (AU) Convention for the Assistance and Protection of IDPs in Africa, the Kampala Convention is the AU’s collective treaty. This treaty addresses internal exodus brought on by armed conflict, violence, inter-communal violence, government policies, and natural disasters. Its emergence is often seen as having considerable support and recognition as a key standard on internal displacement, serving as a source of protection and assistance for IDPs (Adeola, 2021). As a result, this instrument was adopted as a means of providing solutions to the large human figures displaced internally in Africa.

In Nigeria, there are a large number of internally displaced persons, most of whom are women and children, as per data on IDPs in Nigeria. Males make up 47% of the population while women constitute 53% (Akuto, 2017). Due to ongoing conflict in Nigeria, internal displacement is a considerable concern politically with the Northern region having over two million displaced people. Adeola claims Nigeria is the third-highest internally displaced population country in the continent, after Sudan and the Republic of Congo, if the dispute in the nation’s north is not adequately resolved. Moreover, with the ongoing demographic shift brought on by the Boko-Haram insurgency, the nation might trade places with the DRC Congo (Adeola, 2016). Notably, hundreds of people were displaced by natural disasters in 2015, for example.

Nigeria became the 12th African nation to ratify the KC on April 17, 2012. Nevertheless, an important question that anyone would ask is if the convention is vital to the challenges of displacement faced in Nigeria. The KC provides legal instructions on the protection and aid of the IDPs, according to Adeola, who recommends a “two-fold” response. First, it goes beyond humanitarian efforts when state actors enforce it. Second, the Convention provides IDPs with a normative framework to raise a legal claim to their protection and assistance, which courts may sustain in circumstances when the appropriate institutions deny the claim (Adeola, 2016).
To make the KC protect women that have been displaced, there is need for intentional elimination of harmful practices that displaced women face because these practices prevent their return and reintegration into their communities.

In addition, supporting women to access justice is paramount. Further still, supporting displaced women to escape the cycle of poverty is essential to their financial liberation, independence and institutes gender monitoring indicators for further assessment towards development of sustainable solutions. The barriers that limit women’s access to justice include illiteracy, lack of formal education, and limited knowledge of their rights and fundamental liberties. This calls for civic education programs, capacity building and access to quality education that will empower them with the knowledge of their rights and strategically position them to participate in decision making processes.

Article 12.1, stipulates that:
“Parties shall provide persons affected by displacement with effective remedies” (Kampala Convention, 2009).

According to a 2016 NOI (a public opinion and research organization based in Nigeria, West Africa, named after its founders name initials Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) survey study, access to food, water, medication, and relief supplies is a problem in Nigeria and remains inaccessible affecting female IDPs the most. About 85% interviewed at that time had zero access to food, and 15% had little access tantamount to poor food. Moreover, according to an assessment of the situation in Nigeria’s North-eastern region, most internally displaced populations cite instances of discrimination and sexual abuse as “sex for food” and “sex for gate-pass” (Ihua, 2016). Thus, human rights infringements are perpetrated against women in the camps as they go out in search of food.

Conclusively, Akpoghome (2015) postulates that bringing this dream of protecting IDPs using the KC to fruition “may be a tall dream in Nigeria”. I agree because when the interventions (despite its ratification), as stipulated in the treaty, are implemented strictly by the Nigerian government, IDPs in Nigeria in 2022 will not be faced with challenges such as exploitation and starvation.

Adeola, R. (2021). The Kampala Convention and the Protection of Persons Internally Displaced by Harmful Practices in Africa. Journal of African Law, 65(S1), 101-114. doi:10.1017/S0021855321000073

Adeola, R. (2016, April 28). Kampala Convention and protection of IDPs in Nigeria. Punch Nigeria. Retrieved August 3, 2022, from https://punchng.com/kampala-convention-protection-idps-nigeria/

Akpoghome, Theresa. (2015). Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria and the Kampala Convention. Recht in Afrika. 18. 58-77. 10.5771/2363-6270-2015-1-58.

Akuto, G. W. (2017). Challenges of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria: Implications for Counselling and the Role of Key Stakeholders. International Journal of Innovative Psychology & Social Development, 5(2), 21–27. https://seahipaj.org/journals-ci/june-2017/IJIPSD/full/IJIPSD-J-4-2017.pdf

Bradley, M. A. A. M. (2016, July 28). Strengthened Protection for Internally Displaced Persons in Africa: The Kampala Convention Comes Into Force. Brookings. Retrieved August 2, 2022, from https://www.brookings.edu/articles/strengthened-protection-for-internally displaced-persons-in-africa-the-kampala-convention-comes-into-force/

Chioma, U. (2021, September 6). Internally Displaced Persons In Nigeria: Issues, Problems & Solutions. Thenigerialawyer.Com. Retrieved August 3, 2022, from https://thenigerialawyer.com/internally-displaced-persons-in-nigeria-issues-problems-solutions/

Deng, F. M. (1999). Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. International Migration Review, 33(2), 484–493. https://doi.org/10.1177/019791839903300209

Groth, Lauren. (2011). Engendering Protection: An Analysis of the 2009 Kampala Convention and Its Provisions for Internally Displaced Women. International Journal of Refugee Law. 23. 10.1093/ijrl/eer002.

Ihua, B. (n.d.). Female IDPs Continue to Suffer Starvation and Sexual Abuse in Nigerian Camps. Https://Africanwomeninmedia.Com. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://africanwomeninmedia.com/female-idps-continue-to-suffer-starvation-and-sexual-abuse-in-nigerian-camps/

The Kampala Convention: Make it work for women https://www.nrc.no/globalassets/pdf/reports/the-kampala-convention—make-it-work-for-women.pdf

This blog forms part of research of the Global Engagement on Internal Displacement in Africa (GENIDA) (EP/T003227/1) projects supported by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)

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