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West African leaders urged to sign and ratify Kampala Convention

West African leaders urged to sign and ratify Kampala Convention

West African leaders have been urged by Sierra Leone’s Deputy Attorney General and Justice Minister Hon. John Arrow Bockarie through their representatives at the first Ministerial Conference on “Humanitarian Assistance and Internal Displacement in West Africa” held in Abuja, Nigeria to be truly committed in promoting the rights of internally displaced people, sign and ratify the October 2009 Kampala convention, and show commitment to implement it through the approved plan of action.  (Photo: Hon. Arrow Bockarie, Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Justice & 1st Chairman of the 1st ECOWAS Ministerial Conference)

Hon. John Arrow Bockarie made this call on Thursday July 7 at the Economic Community of West African states Commission (ECOWAS) Conference Centre in his capacity as chairman of the one day session of the first Ministerial Conference on Humanitarian Assistance and Internal Displacement in West Africa, after a marathon deliberation on a Thirty Four (34) point resolution adopted by representatives of ECOWAS Countries.

His call came after series of pronouncements made in the same direction by different Representatives of Governments and organizations including Permanent Secretary of Nigeria’s Foreign Ministry, Dr.  Martin I. Uhomoibhi Finland Government, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) African Union(AU), UN Refugee Agency,(UNHCR) OCHA etc.

In his opening remarks, Dr.  Martin I. Uhomoibhi who read President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s speech described the theme “Humanitarian Assistance  and Internal Displacement in West Africa” “Thoughtful” as they are relevant, not least because humanitarian assistance and the challenge of internal displacement have become global phenomena.

He said the issue of humanitarian assistance which has become a widely accepted intervention strategy is embedded in the African Culture. “We in Africa believe in each other’s keeper. “Whether the challenge is in the form of drought, flooding, desertification or from armed conflict, African countries have a long standing tradition to provide relief and support to displaced populations.

Within the context of the sub-region, Dr.  Martin I. Uhomoibhi said both terms have come to assume greater significance with respect to States obligations and responsibilities toward internally displaced persons, most especially women and children.

“Convinced of the need to address the effects of armed conflict, natural disasters, and inter–communal clashes, our leaders ratified in 1969, and the convention governing the specific aspect of refugee problems in Africa to provide a legal framework in responding to the challenges of internal displacement.

1st Miniterial Conference Chairman, Hon. John Arrow Bockarie, 3rd from left

In the case of Nigeria, such institutions include the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the National Commission for Refugees and the Civil Defence Corps. Others include the Nigerian Red Cross Society and Women Societies.

“It is also reassuring to know that the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs also has similar structures on the ground in member states. “The work of the international Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other international legal instruments specifically created to protect internally displaced persons continue to be pivotal to addressing the challenges of internally displaced persons(IDP’S) and humanitarian intervention not only in West Africa but globally.

“At sub regional level, ECOWAS Member States have set up its own relief and Support architecture. The task we face therefore is to strengthen existing mechanisms and institutions to facilitate a robust response capability among states in the sub-region.

“In this regard, I wish to call on states that are yet to ratify the Kampala convention to do so , and for all states to speed up the domestication of this important treaty in order to strengthen our collective capability in addressing the challenges of the IDP’S and Humanitarian intervention in our region.

Hon. Rosaline Oya Sankoh, displaying her qualitative teaching techniques at the conference

Sierra Leone’s Deputy Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs Minister Hon. Rosaline Oya Sankoh clearly explained the meaning of inter-relationship, Internal Displacement, Refugees, Humanitarian assistance and aids. She also took time to explain their respective distinctions.

According to an updated available African Union data, thirty two (32) African Countries including Sierra Leone have so far signed the Kampala declaration. Sierra Leone is amid the first five, among the twelve African Countries that have so far ratified the Kampala convention. Fifty three African Countries are to sign and ratify the Kampala declaration.

Pasco Gerald Temple, Information Attaché, Sierra Leone High Commission, Abuja, Nigeria

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