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AU Conference Addresses Refugee, IDP Problem in Africa


An African Union conference on refugees and internally displaced people has concluded in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou with African ministers expressing their concern at the continuing problem of refugees in Africa.

The two-day conference started on Thursday with ministers from across Africa listening to the African Union anthem.

On Friday, a declaration was issued, emphasizing the deep concern the representatives felt for the three million estimated refugees in Africa.

Burkina Faso was apparently chosen as a venue because of its own massive refugee population, mainly from neighboring countries.

Burkina Faso's own representative to the AU, Bruno Zidouemba, told VOA the focus was especially on those who are particularly vulnerable.

"If we consider the refugees, those who suffer most are children and women, so we have considered special measures to protect them. This is even if we are dealing with all refugees," he said.

Women and children were not mentioned in the draft declaration.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees representative, Christine Bocoum, addressed the attending ministers. Afterwards, she told VOA that systems are in place to deal with refugees fairly effectively.

"For the last 50 years we have been talking about refugees," she said. "When it comes to refugees you have the legal framework, you have a clear mandate given to the UNHCR by the international community to take care of refugees."

Bocoum said that the real problem now is Internally Displaced People (IDPs).

"What we see now is because most of the conflict situations are being settled, refugees are going back and we have less refugees," she added. "But we are also witnessing more and more Internally Displaced People. Non of the agencies has a clear mandate for IDPs and they are not being taken care of properly."

Estimates suggest there are 13 million IDPs in Africa, which is more than the rest of the world combined.