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Forum discusses plight of internally displaced persons

Mar 22, 2011, 12:10 PM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

A day-long seminar for National Assembly Members and members of the civil society organizations on the AU Convention for the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons in Africa (also known as the Kampala Convention) was convened yesterday at the Jerma Beach Hotel.

The Ministry of the Interior along with the Gambia Refugee Commission in partnership with the Internally Displaced Monitoring Centre (IDMC) jointly organized the forum.

The forum aimed to ensure that the National Assembly members and civil society organizations acknowledge the value of the Kampala Convention for the protection of internally displaced persons in The Gambia and beyond.

The organizers thought it wise to sensitize the key stakeholders and give them a good understanding of the convention and its provisions, and with reference to related international, and regional legal instruments.

It also sought to ensure that National Assembly Members include the ratification of the Kampala Convention in their agenda, and initiate the necessary debates and contribution within the Assembly.

In officially opening the forum, the minister of the Interior Hon. Ousman Sonko described the forum as timely.

He said it will also avail legislators the opportunity to have first-hand knowledge on all the issues, and the role and responsibilities of African governments that have signed on.

 He recalled that a ministerial conference was organized in Ouagadougou in June  2006, during which  the ministers came up with a set of recommendations and a declaration drawn from the theme of protecting and assisting victims of forced displacement in Africa, in accordance with the 1965 OAU convention governing this aspect of refugee problems in Africa.

The issue of internally displaced persons, he said, now takes centre stage and, therefore, the need to find a durable solution is government's primary responsibility. 

"Today in Africa, many countries have experienced economic losses due to natural disaster such as floods, storms, landslides, wildfires and drought, in some areas," he said.

Minister Sonko stressed that the Gambia Government is committed to find a sustainable durable solution for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

He said that the Gambia was among the first countries to sign the AU Convention for the protection of and assistance to IDPs in Africa, and continues to take an active part in addressing the challenges of forced displacement.

Jacopo Giorgi from the IDMC said the overall goal of the initiative and dialogue on the ratification of the AU convention is to ensure its entry into force and its implementation.

"On several occasions, The Gambia has demonstrated its readiness to protect refugees, that is, persons displaced by human rights violations, violence, and armed conflicts in different countries in the region, and seeking protection across borders," he said.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, expressed delight to be associated with the sensitization forum.

He said that the National Assembly is dedicated to the Pan African ideals guided by solidarity among Africans.

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