The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) hit 10.4 million at the end of 2012, almost a third of the global total, said a report released on Monday by the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).
No other continent has so many displaced people, the closest being the Middle East and North Africa region with six million IDPs.
Why is the situation so bad in Africa?
The number of IDPs in Africa grew by 7.5 percent in 2012, reversing a downward trend recorded since 2004.
This is linked to worsening conflict and violence throughout the continent, the report said.
“There were more highly violent conflicts in Africa in 2012 than at any time since 1945,” IDMC said, citing the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research’s 2012 Conflict Barometer, which states that the number of highly violent conflicts in Africa increased to 18 last year from 13 in 2011.
The Heidelberg Institute identified half of the world’s 18 wars as being in Africa – in DRC, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. Some countries had multiple wars, such as Sudan’s Darfur and Blue Nile/South Kordofan conflicts. Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan was listed as “the only interstate war worldwide.”
PLAGUED BY VIOLENCE
In many African countries, the government struggles to stamp its authority on remote regions that often lack all-weather roads and where rebels take up arms to protest against marginalisation.
“In areas like the Democratic Republic of Congo, you have very weak governance so you have a lot of armed groups,” Clare Spurrell, a spokeswoman for IDMC told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In the DRC, one million people were newly displaced, the second highest figure in the world after Syria.
The vast central African nation was shattered by wars between 1994 and 2003 that killed about 5 million people. At the end of 2012, it had 2.7 million IDPs, often trapped in dangerous places with few roads.
Most IDPs fled from or within DRC’s eastern provinces, which are plagued by violence from a variety of rebel groups.
“Many have fled at least twice, with some having done so more than three times over the past year alone,” IDMC’s report said.
Despite having the strongest mandate of any United Nations peacekeeping force to date, MONUSCO, the U.N.’s stabilisation mission in the DRC, is widely considered to have failed. In November, it stood aside and let M23 rebels seize control of Goma, a major eastern city. It said any attempt to block the rebels would have put the civilian population at risk.
In that week, 140,000 people were displaced and more than 120 women were raped.
Last week, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, said “the violence and suffering inflicted on people in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have reached a level rarely seen in two decades.”