African Union to Tackle Long Neglected Refugee Crisis

By Colin Norcross-Joyce

ADDIS ABABA (UN Press Corps) - The African Union convened this weekend to confront the migrant crisis caused by conflict and civil war in countries such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Nigeria, and Eritrea that, as of 2017, has caused the displacement of over 20 million people. Over the past decade, this mass movement of people has created a large humanitarian crisis for most African nations. As of 2018, one half of all migrants had settled in Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, bringing about concerns of food insecurity, lack of education, and sexual and gender-based discrimination.

On May 25th, 1963, 32 independent African states held a conference in Ethiopia in order to form a union that, as stated in their charter, would “promote the unity and solidarity of African states; coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa;”

In the 1990’s, many states that were part of the OAU realized the necessity of change to more appropriately represent the evolving landscape and economy of the African nations. New social, economic, and political issues, as well as inclusion into the world economy prompted the start of negotiations to rethink the structure of the body. From 1999-2002, four summits were held to address these issues. The group, previously titled the Organization of African Unity, was renamed to the African Union, keeping most of the original organization’s goals and frameworks in tact and remaining optimistic about strategies to confront new challenges, such at the refugee crisis presently gripping the region.

In addition to the AU, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has been making efforts to help control the migrant crisis and fight for the inclusion of refugees in host nations. However, this effort has been ill received in some countries, such as in the Central African Republic where 40 Christian refugees were slaughtered. The representative of the Republic of Mauritius stated that the refugee crisis is a “very oppressing issue” and went on to express her disappointment in the fact that there has been no concrete solution for so long stating that the “issue needs to be tackled at the roots.” The representative of São Tomé and Príncipe echoed these sentiments, recognizing the need for countries that are in better economic standing to help the refugees. She also stated that her country would be open to the acceptance of more migrants. It will be up to this committee to find a reasonable solution to this pressing issue and help the millions that may never see home again.