Book | Dr. Mehari: The Kampala Convention & Its Contributions to International Law

Book: ‘The Kampala Convention and Its Contributions to International Law’

Author: Dr. iur. Mehari Taddele Maru – DSL (JL Giessen), MPA (Harvard), MSc (Oxford) and LLB (AAU)
Pages: 400

Publisher: Eleven International Publishing

Date of Publication: May 2014.
 ISBN: 978-94-6236-102-7

A new book entitled: ‘The Kampala Convention and Its Contributions to International Law’, authored by Mehari Taddele Maru, who holds Doctorate of Legal Sciences and Addis Ababa based International Consultant, was published last month by the globally respected legal and academic publisher Eleven International Publishing based in The Hague, Netherlands.

The book examines the African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons – known as the Kampala Convention – which entered into force on 6 December 2012. It points out the shortcomings of international law relating to internal displacement, more specifically the ‘protection gap’. The author shows how the Kampala Convention not only fills this protection gap, but also how it contributes to the overall development of norms in international, regional and national laws governing internal displacement. The book is said to be of interest to scholars of international law and human rights, as well as to experts in peace and security and practitioners in humanitarian organizations, the African Union, the United Nations, and Regional Economic Communities.Book cover - The Kampala Convention its Contributions to International Law

Read below the foreword written by the most renowned scholar on the subject matter Dr Francis Deng, who is Permanent Representative of South Sudan to the UN and former Under-Secretary General Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.


In 2012, the African Union (AU) will celebrate the tenth anniversary of The African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons, commonly referred to as the Kampala Convention, Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru’s book. The Kampala Convention and Its Contribution to International Law, is an important contribution on an issue which has drawn increasing international and regional attention over, the last several decades and with which I was personally engaged for twelve years, from 1992 to 2004, as the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, popularly known by the acronym of IDPs.

The then Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali surprised me one day with a phone call to tell me that my name had been proposed for the position of Secretary-General’s Representative on IDPs and that it was his pleasure to offer me the job. I told him that the news was a total surprise to me, that I was of course honored by the offer, but that I would appreciate knowing from your people more about what the assignment would entail before giving my final response. Boutros Ghali’s response was, “Francis, I know you very well and how concerned with these issues you are’. And, indeed, in our capacity as Ministers of State for our respective countries, Egypt and Sudan, we had worked very closely together. Boutros Ghali continued with his plea: ” This is not only a global problem, it is one which affects our Continent of Africa the most, and in Africa, it is your Country, the Sudan, that is the most affected and, in the Sudan, it is your people of the South that are the worst hit. I cannot see how you can say ‘No’. So, I will tell them that you have accepted and if you still have questions, we can discuss further later.”

And, of course, he was right. No region in the world is more familiar with the negative effects of forced internal and external displacement than Africa. Currently, there are more than 26 million internally displaced persons and more than 14 million refugees in Africa. This comprises roughly half of the world’s IDP and refugee populations. The good news is that the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Africa is on the decline. However, this positive long term trend does not extend to Africa’s IDPs, whose count has risen sharply and steadily over the past decade. Their sheer number aside, the life-threatening conditions under which IDPs survive cries out for a robust and comprehensive international response. Internal displacement negates the most fundamental human rights of individuals and communities, most notably, freedom of movement and residence, the right to life and livelihood, the right to health, and the right to education and property ownership. Consequently, the challenge Protracted internal displacement therefore poses a grave challenge to the AU.

Internal, as opposed to external, displacement was for long a neglected subject under international law. In contrast with refugees, there has been a glaring absence of specific international conventions that confer international protection on IDPs. The development of appropriate legal standards for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons was one of the main objectives of my UN mandate from its inception. Indeed, the need to examine the applicability of existing international human rights law, humanitarian law, and analogous refuge law to the protection and assistance needs of IDPs was a principal reason that prompted the Commission on Human Rights to request the Secretary-General to designate a representative on the subject of internal displacement. An intensive and broad-based process culminated in the development of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which I presented to the Commission on Human Rights in 1998. Within a relatively short time after their submission to the Commission on Human Rights, the Guiding Principles gained considerable international recognition and standing among states, the UN system, regional organizations and NGOs as a useful tool for addressing situations of internal displacement.

With the adoption of the Kampala Convention, Africa played a distinct leadership role in international norm- setting in this area of great concern to the world. The Kampala Convention offers a legal framework for a Pan- African prevention of internal displacement, protection and assistance for IDPs and eventual return, integration or relocation of IDPs. It also stipulates the obligation of states, non-state actors, as well as of the AU and international community. The Kampala Convention also offers an institutional framework for the dissemination, promotion and implementation as well as monitoring of the implementation of its provisions through cooperation and peer review mechanism. It was also a source of great pleasure and personal pride when I together with my successor, Professor Walter Kaelm, and Professor Chaluka Beyani, who contributed to the preparation of the AU convention and was later to succeed Professor Kaelin were invited to attend the adoption of the Kampala Convention. It is indeed fitting that the Convention was adopted in Kampala with the title of the Kampala Convention since Uganda was among the first countries to adopt a legislation based on our Guiding Principles.

Given this background and my personal association with the development of a normative framework for IDPs, it is with great satisfaction that I salute and strongly endorse this book by Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru which deals with the Kampala Convention and the Efforts of the AU in ensuring the governance of internal displacement. It is also worth noting Dr. Maru’s personal background and experience with the crisis of displacement.Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru

Bom in the principal site of a protracted, devastating civil war in Ethiopia – the northem region of Tigray- Dr. Mehari witnessed early on the human rights violations of his close family members. His father, maternal grandparents as well as uncle – all of whom were middle-ranking public servants in Emperor Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia – were made to disappear, presumed to have been killed by one of the rebel groups in Ethiopia. He was seven or so at the time of the trauma and the persecution of his entire extended family. Seeking protection and assistance, he was forced to flee from his birthplace in northem Ethiopia. He himself was therefore an IDP. His childhood experience, perhaps more than anything else, shaped his subsequent determination to contribute to a human rights protective regime in Africa. This commitment to human rights was amply reinforced during his first years at Addis Ababa University, and his subsequent advanced education at universities such as Harvard, Oxford and J.L Gissen.

Dr. Mehari Maru’s book, a significant contribution to an area of personal significance to his life, offers a detailed analysis and incisive, thoughtful commentary on the Kampala Convention, identifying its contribution to international law on the subject. This work will surely serve as a principal resource material on the Kampala Convention and the management governance of internal displacement in Africa.

While the book may assist efforts to have globally binding convention on IDPs, its findings and recommendations will certainly be useful for the AU, RECs, national government and international institutions with mandates related to internal displacement and IDPs. Recognizing that ratification of binding instruments with mandates related to internal displacement and IDPs. Recognizing that ratification of binding instruments usually takes time, the book will be a valuable resource material for the popularization and speedy ratification, domestication and effective implementation of the Kampala Convention.

I highly comment this book not only as an academic resource material but also as a practical guide for policy makers at the AU, REC’s and Member States.

Ambassador Francis Mading Deng,
Permanent Representative of South Sudan to the UN and former Under-Secretary General Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide,
New York, United States of America

Daniel Berhane

more recommended stories