UN highlights need to solve growing burden of forcibly displaced Africans

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Some 53,000 Nigerians displaced by conflict are living in the Minawao refugee camp in north-east Cameroon. (February 2019)

With 24.2 million Africans forced from their homes in 2017  ̶  4.6 million more than the previous year  ̶  the UN is hosting a three-day event at UN headquarters, focusing on finding durable solutions to the problem, which is a growing burden on the continent’s economy, environment and communities which host those displaced. 

The 2019 Africa Dialogue Series, (ADS) which began on Monday under the theme “Towards durable solutions for forcibly displaced persons in Africa,” brings together a wide range of actors with a stake in finding ways to deal with the issue, including representatives of national governments, the African Union, civil society, the private sector and the United Nations.  

Speaking at the opening session, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly, commended the contribution African countries are making to strengthen multilateralism. 

Ms. Espinosa said that she resolved to make Africa the focus of her activities at the outset of her GA Presidency, adding that she believes Africa’s contribution to the UN is under-appreciated, and that the region’s voice remains under-represented in the international system. 

Ms. Espinosa stressed that African leadership “time and time again, has led the way, be it through expanding the definition of ‘refugee’ in 1969, or through the Kampala Convention, the first legally-binding framework to address internal displacement, which was adopted in 2009.” 

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
The Africa Dialogue Series 2019 opens at UN Headquarters in New York on 21 May 2019.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said that by building strong coalitions of stakeholders, the series was an important element in the effort to boost international cooperation. With regard to the 2019 ADS theme, the UN chief paid tribute to the solidarity and hospitality of African countries, many of whom continue to set the global standard:  

“Countries like Uganda, Djibouti, Rwanda and Ethiopia are taking innovative action to recognize and promote the rights of refugees. And African countries played a key role in securing the approval of the Global Compact on Refugees last year,” he said. 

Mr. Guterres urged delegates to “consider the issue of displacement in the broadest context, in your search for sustainable and durable solutions,” taking into consideration international issues such as the global emergency of climate change, financing for development and universal health coverage. 

Deputy Secretary-General and former Nigerian Government minister, Amina Mohammed, told delegates: “You can count on the United Nations to be a strong partner for Africa…ensuring the involvement of youth as agents of change in all conflict resolution and political processes.”

She praised the recent Joint UN-African Union (AU) Frameworks on Peace and Security and Sustainable Development, noting they would “contribute to strengthening our shared efforts to promote inclusive sustainable development and tackle many of the drivers of conflict and forced displacement.”

 Ms. Mohammed called for all to “pledge today to keep working together to transform the narrative and transform the future for Africa, its young people and our world.”

Horn of Africa, Gulf Countries Affirm Dignity, Human Rights of Migrants at Conference in Djibouti

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) co-hosted a conference of seven nations in Djibouti this week to strengthen the humanitarian response to migrants in the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Gulf countries on the eve of UN-sponsored peace talks between warring factions in Yemen.

Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, led discussions at the conference on Wednesday (05/12). Photo: IOM/Angela Wells

The Drawing on Peace Dividends in the Horn of Africa to Ensure Urgent Enhancements in the Management of Migratory Flows to Yemen and the Gulf Countries conference was organized Wednesday in partnership with the Government of Djibouti and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre.

The conference encouraged stronger cooperation between governments and partners in the protection of and humanitarian response to migrants travelling through the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries, particularly Yemen.

The day-long event preceded the commencement of peace talks on Thursday in Sweden aimed at ending the civil war in Yemen that began nearly four years ago.

On Tuesday, IOM reported that nearly 150,000 people have crossed the Gulf of Aden to reach Yemen, one of the most traversed and youthful maritime routes in the world, with children constituting 20 per cent of Yemen’s migrant population.

Delegates from seven countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen and Somalia) offered valuable contributions to discussions on the challenges facing their countries in protecting and responding to migration.

Opening the dialogue, chairman of the meeting Hassan Omar Mohammad Bourhan, Djibouti’s Minister of Interior, urged countries in the two regions to “put in place local policies to ensure the protection and respect of the human rights of migrants, especially for the large number of unaccompanied minors in need of protection and special assistance”.

Similarly, in prepared video remarks, IOM’s Director General António Vitorino said, “You have come together to find concrete ways to protect all those who cross your borders, regardless of their migratory status or nationality. Safe and legal pathways for migration will ultimately prove beneficial to all.”

During the meeting, IOM Regional Directors and Chiefs of Mission outlined the complex issues facing migrants and their missions, including: protection programming and assistance for migrants; sustainable reintegration of returnees; health interventions and contingency planning; long-term solutions such as legal pathways and, awareness-raising campaigns and migration management.  

Interventions were also made by the European Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency, and the UN Development Programme on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator.

How Djibouti like Zambia is about to loose its port to China

One such African country that is exhibiting all the red flag signals of going Sri Lankan and now Zambian way is Djibouti


Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh

Beijing’s cumulative loans to Africa since 2000 amounted to $124-billion by 2016, according to figures compiled by the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI).

Djibouti is projected to take on public debt worth around 88 percent of the country’s overall $1.72 billion GDP, with China owning the lion’s share of it.

On March 2018, Djibouti signed a partnership agreement with a Singaporean company that works with China Merchants Port Holdings Co. or CMPort—the same state-owned corporation that gained control of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka—to build the Doraleh Multipurpose Port.

In recent years, China has emerged as a key investor and a generous, ready and easy lender to African countries.

Beijing’s cumulative loans to Africa since 2000 amounted to $124-billion by 2016, according to figures compiled by the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in the United States.

Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, were the top beneficiaries of these loans. Angola’s oil-related loans worth $21.2 billion since 2000 total roughly a quarter of cumulative Chinese loans to the entire continent.

“Half of those loans were given in the past four years,” Janet Eom, an associate researcher at CARI, told DW. “So Africa’s debt to China is becoming more of a concern moving forward.”

While African Presidents are  at least this time round somehow exempted from the indignity of being talked down while clutching their begging bowls at western capitals before a few notes is thrown into their bowls, the readily available Chinese loans are not entirely risk free.

Economists and other international financial institutions are becoming increasingly worried that the East Asian giant under a careful disguised “debt trap” diplomacy is burying many developing and poor countries in massive debt and then forcing the highly indebted countries to hand over some of their key infrastructures’ such as the case of Sri Lanka.

One such African country that is exhibiting all the red flag signals of going Sri Lankan and now Zambian way is Djibouti.

Djibouti lies more than 2,500 miles from Sri Lanka but the East African country faces a predicament similar to what its peer across the sea confronted in 2017, after borrowing more money from China than it could pay back.

In both countries, the money went to infrastructure projects under the aegis of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Sri Lanka racked up more than $8 billion worth of debt to Chinese sovereign-backed banks at interest rates as high as 7 percent reaching a level too high to service. With nearly all its revenue going toward debt repayment, in 2017 after being pushed to the wall, Sri Lanka threw in the towel and handed over the Chinese-built port at Hambantota under a 99-year lease with China having a 70 percent stake.

Djibouti is projected to take on public debt worth around 88 percent of the country’s overall $1.72 billion GDP, with China owning the lion’s share of it, according to a report published in March by the Center for Global Development.

At the end of 2016 China owned 82% of Djibouti’s external debt.

On March 2018, Djibouti signed a partnership agreement with a Singaporean company that works with China Merchants Port Holdings Co. or CMPort—the same state-owned corporation that gained control of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka—to build the Doraleh Multipurpose Port.

That project was completed in May 2017.

The port is significant not only because it sits next to China’s only overseas military base  but also because it is the main access point for American, French, Italian and Japanese bases in Djibouti and is used — because of its strategic location — by parts of the U.S. military that operate in Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

One concern is that the Djibouti government, facing mounting debt and increasing dependence on extracting rents, would be pressured to hand over control of Camp Lemonnier to China.

In a letter to National Security Advisor John Bolton in May, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), two members of the Senate Armed Service Committee, wrote that Djibouti’s  President Guelleh seems willing to “sell his country to the highest bidder,” undermining U.S. military interests.

“Djibouti’s now identified as one of those countries that are at high risk of debt distress. So, that should be sending off all sorts of alarm bells for Djiboutians as well as for the countries that really rely on Djibouti, such as the United States,” said Joshua Meservey, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

And that’s not all, China is not done yet with Djibouti, Beijing has been earmarked the country as one of 68 countries set to be involved in its ambitious One Belt and One Road Initiative (OBOR).

Problem is eight of the 68 countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative currently face unsustainable debt levels, according the Center for Global Development’s report.

The eight nations are Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

As past experiences have shown the eight nations will certainly be enticed to chew more than they can swallow and by the end of it end up being even poorer than they are now.

As the cradle of mankind continues to sink deeper into debt condemning future generations to economic slavery, the late Whitney Houston feat Deborah Cox classic ‘Same Script, Different Cast’  has never rang truer.

Published courtesy of APO Group on behalf of Business Insider.

USD 45 Million Needed for 2018-2020 Migrant Response in Horn of Africa, Yemen


Ethiopian migrants in Obock, Djibouti, walk to a shaded area to await smugglers to bring them to Yemen. Photo: Olivia Headon/IOM 2018

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, and its partners launched, on 6 August, a Regional Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen through which they are appealing to the international community for USD 45 million. The plan details support to migrants on the move in the Horn of Africa and Yemen from 2018 to 2020.

The response plan, developed in coordination with regional and country level non-governmental and intergovernmental partners, is a migrant-focused humanitarian and development strategy for vulnerable migrants from the Horn of Africa, specifically those from Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia, moving to and from Yemen. The plan targets some 81,000 people.

Irregular migration from the Horn of Africa to the Gulf countries has been steadily increasing over the past few years, with approximately 100,000 people entering Yemen, a major transit point on this route, in 2017. Often, migrants and refugees cross the Gulf of Aden from Djibouti or Somalia, arriving in Yemen with the support of smugglers.

The countries on this route are beset with humanitarian challenges. In Yemen, partners estimate that more than 20 million people need humanitarian assistance, while Somalia and Ethiopia are also in the grip of complex emergencies because of conflict and recurrent disasters.

The plan estimates that, like in 2017, up to 100,000 new arrivals from the Horn of Africa will reach Yemen in 2018, while 200,000 migrants and refugees will return from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Yemen to the Horn of Africa countries in the same period. Of these, 150,000 and 50,000 will return to Ethiopia and Somalia, respectively.

“This Regional Migrant Response Plan will guide IOM and its partners in addressing the growing needs of irregular migrants moving between the Horn of Africa and Yemen,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM Regional Director for the East and Horn of Africa. “The humanitarian needs in the region remain immense, which leave migrants and host communities in a vulnerable situation,” he added.

The three-year plan includes urgent humanitarian interventions. It also details longer term actions to address the drivers of migration, build local migration management capacity and provide sustainable socioeconomic infrastructure to support communities of origin, transit and destination. The objectives of the plan are in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals, connecting humanitarian and development field work.

DP World: Media Statement on Djibouti’s Doraleh Container Terminal

Djibouti does not recognise the international rule of law


The Doraleh Container Terminal (pictured), Djibouti. Image: Panoramio

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, August 4, 2018/ — Today’s statement by the Djibouti government states that it does not acknowledge the decision of the London Court of International Arbitration demonstrates that Djibouti does not recognise the international rule of law. The Court’s decision upholding the continuing validity of the Concession is based on recognised principles of international law and is internationally binding both on the Djibouti government and so far as third parties are concerned.

As the Court has held, Djibouti does not have sovereignty over a contract governed by English law. It is well established that, in the absence of an express term to that effect, an English law contract cannot be unilaterally terminated at will. The contract therefore remains in full force and effect.

The Djibouti government’s repeated statements that the port concession has proved contrary to the fundamental interests of the Republic of Djibouti do not bear scrutiny. As the Court’s decision records, the government’s own representatives have given evidence that the port has been “a great success for Djibouti”. The terms of the concession have also been held in two previous cases brought by the Government itself to have been “even handed and fair”. In light of that indisputable success, and the fair and reasonable terms of the concession, the government’s attempts to terminate it cannot have anything to do with the fundamental interests of the people of Djibouti.

Djibouti does not recognize the Arbitral Award rendered by the London International Arbitral Court

On February 22, 2018, the State of Djibouti terminated the concession for the Doraleh container terminal, awarded in 2006 to Doraleh Container Terminal (DCT), a company controlled de facto by the minority shareholder DP World.


The Doraleh Container Terminal (pictured), Djibouti. Image: Panoramio

The implementation of this concession contract has proved to be contrary to the fundamental interests of the Republic of Djibouti. The continuation of the concession contract was seriously prejudicial to the country’s development imperatives and to the control of its most strategic infrastructure.

Several attempts to renegotiate the concession with DP World, initiated by the government, were unsuccessful because of DP World’s repeated refusal to hear the legitimate objections and requests of the Djiboutian State.

This termination, which was therefore necessary and unavoidable, is made in accordance with international public law which recognizes the ability of a sovereign state to unilaterally terminate a contract on public interest grounds, subject to payment of fair compensation to the other party. The termination was decided in the context of a transparent procedure. It finds its legal basis in a law enacted by the Djiboutian Parliament on November 8, 2017, aimed at protecting the fundamental interests of the Nation, completed by a decree dated February 22, 2018.

DCT, at DP World’s request, nevertheless decided to oppose it and initiated arbitration proceedings before the LCIA (London Court of International Arbitration) with the aim, publicly announced by DP World, of resuming as soon as possible its rights on the concession and thus the operation of the Doraleh container terminal.

Logically, the Republic of Djibouti did not participate in this procedure, considering that LCIA would only judge this dispute on the basis of the terms of a contract contrary to Djibouti’s fundamental interests.

On 31 July 2018, the sole arbitrator appointed under the aegis of LCIA rendered a partial arbitral award, which the Government of the Republic of Djibouti has become aware of.

The sole arbitrator has concluded that the concession contract could not be terminated by the Government of the Republic of Djibouti under the law passed by the Djiboutian Parliament on November 8, 2017 and considered that the contract was still in force.

The Republic of Djibouti does not recognize this arbitral award which consists in qualifying the law of a sovereign State as illegal.

Indeed, the arbitral award seems to consider that the terms of the concession contract entered into between the Port of Djibouti and DCT, are above Djiboutian law. It disregards the sovereignty of the Republic of Djibouti and takes no account of public international law rules.

Following the arbitral award’s reasoning, it is also understood that a sovereign State would not have the right to terminate a contract the implementation and performance of which is considered contrary to its fundamental interests, but would however authorize the other party to it (DP World) to terminate the said contract to protect its commercial interests…

In other words, a contract would have a higher value than a law adopted in the name of a sovereign nation.

Moreover and in any case, DP World’s approach which consists in trying to oppose the will of a sovereign State is unrealistic and doomed to failure. The concession contract has been terminated, the staff and assets of the concession were transferred to a public company specifically created for this purpose and which now manages this infrastructure.

That is why, in this case, only an outcome consisting in the payment of a fair compensation in accordance with the principles of international law can be envisaged.

UN Migration Agency Helps Over 100 Ethiopian Migrants Return Home from Yemen

The UN Migration Agency on Monday helped some 101 Ethiopian migrants leave Yemen through Hudaydah Port as clashes grew closer to the area.

The migrants are currently travelling via the Gulf of Aden to Djibouti, which they will transit through on their way home to Ethiopia. IOM is providing transport assistance at all stages of the journey in cooperation with its Government partners.


IOM assisting some of the Ethiopian migrants prior to departure from Yemen yesterday. Photo: IOM

The group that left Yemen around noon yesterday, included nearly 51 women and 33 children, who had become stranded in the country. They are the most vulnerable cases from a larger group of about 300 migrants in total, who IOM will help leave Yemen in the coming days provided weather conditions are conducive to sea travel and the security situation allows for the movement.

The majority of the 300 migrants had been in a Sana’a holding facility run by the authorities, which Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergency, had visited at the start of this month. Some others from had been staying with host families. IOM works with families to host vulnerable cases as they wait for voluntary humanitarian return assistance. IOM provides meals, aid items, psychosocial support and health assistance to the migrants living with these host families.

In 2017, 100,000 migrants entered Yemen, of whom the majority were Ethiopian and some were Somali migrants. They were typically headed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in search of work and better living conditions. Even just in the period 6-12 May of this year, IOM’s coastal search and rescue teams for migrants assisted 313 new arrivals (80 boys and 233 men) in Lahj Governorate with information, food, water, emergency aid items and medical assistance, as necessary.

Both while travelling to and in Yemen, migrants are abused by smugglers and other criminals, including physical and sexual abuse, torture for ransom, arbitrary detention for long periods of time, forced labour and even death. Some migrants get caught up in the conflict, sustaining injuries or dying from shelling, and some are taken to detention centres, both official and unofficial.

Through its Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme, IOM is providing transportation and return support from Yemen to the migrants’ final destinations in their home countries.

In 2017, IOM helped around 2,900 migrants and refugees return home from Yemen: 73 per cent of them were Somalis, 25 per cent Ethiopians and 2 per cent other nationalities. IOM has also helped 298 Ethiopian and 1,064 Somali migrants and refugees return home voluntarily to date (30/05) in 2018. Assisted spontaneous returns of Somali refugees are carried out in collaboration with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

In Yemen, IOM provides additional humanitarian assistance to migrants, including health care, shelter and aid items and psychosocial support, while also supporting displaced and conflict affected Yemenis. In Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti, IOM also provides emergency support to migrants starting out their journeys, while in transit and when returning.

“Thousands of migrants are stranded in Yemen and are in desperate need of assistance and protection, as well as the international community’s general attention and support,” said Abdiker, following his recent visit to Yemen. “When I was in the country, I met with many of these young migrants, who we helped leave Yemen today. They told me that they about their shocking experiences and that they wanted to go home. No migrant should be stranded in a conflict. However, there are reasons why they left their countries and without further support when they get home, it is likely they will attempt the perilous journey again. Right now, IOM is only funded to provide reintegration support to some vulnerable cases but not the majority of Ethiopian returnees from Yemen,” added Abdiker.

This return movement from Yemen is funded by the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), the Government of Germany and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Fund.