BY SILAS NKALA
ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has challenged the government to end forced internal displacements of citizens as Africa commemorated Africa Day.
Africa Day was celebrated on Saturday under the theme Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement.
The day is meant to celebrate the end of colonial rule on the African continent and acknowledge the successes of the African Union (AU), from its creation in 1963, in the fight against colonialism as well as the progress that Africa has made, while reflecting on the common challenges faced by all people on the continent.
“As we are commemorating Africa Day, we call upon the Zimbabwean government to end the pervasive practice of forced displacements of people,” said ZLHR in a statement.
“This year’s theme presents an opportune historical moment because it brings to the fore Africa’s continued exemplary level of shared solidarity towards displaced populations, in the spirit of Pan-Africanism, at a time when displaced persons are faced with discrimination and xenophobia in many parts of the world.”
ZLHR said the commemorations come at a time when Africa is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the 2009 AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (the Kampala Convention), a landmark treaty that addresses internal displacement caused by armed conflict, natural disasters and large-scale development projects in Africa.
“Several structural and multi-layered factors continue to trigger forced displacement, including socio-cultural and political-economic challenges, that result in underdevelopment, inequality, poverty, including disparity between women and men, sexual and gender-based violence, intolerance and mismanagement of diversity, bad governance, mismanagement of natural resources, corruption and conflicts,” the lawyers organisation said.
ZLHR expressed concern that Zimbabwe continues to contribute to the increasing population of internally-displaced populations on the continent. According to the AU, there are an estimated 14,5 million internally-displaced persons. “Human rights violations, civil strife, violent conflicts, persecution, governance and democracy deficits, impunity, natural disasters, effects of drought and climate change have contributed to this displacement.”
Zimbabwe contributes to the increasing population of displaced people through its well-documented human rights record, governance and democracy deficits, ZLHR added.
“Further, this Africa Day is being marked after the disastrous effects of Cyclone Idai, which ravaged some parts of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, leaving a trail of massive destruction including loss of lives, destruction of property, injuries and displacement of people among other vulnerabilities,” ZLHR said.
“In Zimbabwe, it is worrying that despite the adoption of a ‘new’ Constitution, which guarantees freedom from arbitrary eviction, people across the country continue to be evicted and to be displaced from their homes by government agencies. The role of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, and local government authorities is well documented.”
ZLHR said the manner in which the majority of evictions and displacements have been executed is grossly and unjustifiably inhumane and amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment of citizens.