On Africa Day, End Evictions and Forced Displacement of People

ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) joins the rest of Africa in commemorating Africa Day and calls upon the Zimbabwean government to end the pervasive practice of forced displacements of people.

Commemorated under the theme “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement,” Africa Day celebrates the end of colonial rule on the African continent and acknowledges 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, whilst reflecting on the common challenges faced by all people on the continent.

This year’s theme titled “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement,” presents an opportune historical moment as it brings to 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.

The commemorations also 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), which is a landmark treaty of the AU 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.

ZLHR is concerned that Zimbabwe continues to contribute to the increasing population of forced displaced people on the continent. According to the African Union, there are an estimated 14.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). 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. Sadly, Zimbabwe has also contributed to increasing the population of displaced people through its well-documented human rights record, governance and democracy deficits.

Further, this Africa Day is being marked after the disastrous effects of Cyclone Idai, which ravaged some parts of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi and which left a trail of massive destruction including loss of lives, destruction of property, injuries and displacement of people among other vulnerabilities.

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 with government agencies. The role of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, and local government authorities is well documented. 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 in contravention of the Constitution and international and regional instruments to which Zimbabwe is a state party.

Government should realise that forced evictions and displacement of people are a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing. In addition, forced evictions and homelessness intensify social conflict and inequality and invariably affect the disadvantaged people, most socially, economically, environmentally and politically disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society.

Therefore, ZLHR urges;

Government to ensure the protection of IDPs and other vulnerable groups and take appropriate means to protect the rights provided in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Government to take all measures to protect human rights prior to, during, and after forced displacements and also to call for provision of compensation, restitution and adequate rehabilitation after forced displacement consistent with human rights standards.

Government to move beyond ratification of the Kampala Convention, domesticate and fully implement its provisions.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)