Department of Research and International Studies
The International Center for Strategic, Security and Military Studies
Written by: Rabab Haddada
Translator: Wiem Sayari
The phenomenon of internal displacement is a global phenomenon that gets worse from year to year, especially in African countries that often witness armed conflicts and natural disasters.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees mentioned that “People are forced to flee within their own country due to conflict, violence, human rights violations or natural disasters.”
Some cross-border people fleeing persecution and war do not know that they are protected by international conventions and legally considered “refugees”.
People who leave their homes while remaining in their country are “internally displaced” and their protection becomes the responsibility of their country, but sometimes their countries are no longer able to take care of them for economic reasons.
The United Nations reports that these internally displaced people live in a state of social marginalization. They are considered the biggest target of extremists and the mafia. Although internal displacement is a social and geographical phenomenon, it has serious consequences on African security.
1- Scary stats:
Global statistics show that the number of displaced people in 2018 amounted to about 28 million people and rose to 45.7 million people in 2020( The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).
The 2019 IDMC Global Report on Internal Displacement reveals more alarming figures about waves of internal population in various regions of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa is at the top of the list with 1.69 per cent of the total number of people displaced due to armed conflict including Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Somalia. These five countries has the most displacements rate (36% of the global total/10.57 million in 2018).
According to researcher Wendy William, the “migration crisis” in Africa is precisely a “displacement crisis”. In other words, migration to Europe is a direct result to the crisis of population displacement in Africa.
2- Fleeing from war towards the unknown:
There are several factors behind the currents of internal displacement. The most important of which is violence (social, political and social). Armed conflicts, the expansion of terrorist networks and ethnic conflicts are a source of terror for those displaced people who find themselves forced to leave their homes with the hope of saving their lives and the lives of their children. These people represent 28 million of the total refugee population.
Most of the currents of internal displacement are caused by armed conflicts and flagrant violations of the laws of war through attacking civilians, their property and life facilities. These attacks lead to the interruption of essential services and commodities, especially food. The constant life threats forces people in war zones to leave their homes towards the unknown in search of safety, and they usually end in homelessness and starvation. in a Red Crescent report ,one of the victims confirms: “All I was thinking about was saving my children and saving our lives, and I never thought about where we were going or what we should have taken, no one thought about anything except saving himself. “
Added to war, nature is an important factor behind displacement .People are victims of hunger (drought, extreme temperature) and fear (fires, landslides, floods, etc.).
The continuation of these factors means lasting humanitarian crisis. African governments should realize the importance of monitoring and addressing them. It is noticeable that a large number of African countries deny the existence of significant currents of internal displacement.
3- The security implications of the internal displacement phenomenon in Africa:
The currents of internal displacement have a direct impact on security in Africa. It helps financing terrorists and mafia networks. The routes used by the internally displaced are the same used in arm trade and smuggling. These armed groups attack the goods of travelers for the sake of theft, robbery and taxation. They use violence to control illegal routes insured by state forces.
Displaced people also fall victims of human trafficking. It is estimated that the human trafficking income along the Trans-Saharan route, including Libya, is approximately $765 million annually.
According to the United States Institute of Peace: “considering the scale of human trafficking activities in Libya, there is no doubt that migrants and refugees have become a war economy fuel in the region and contributes to funding the groups responsible for the ongoing disruption of public order.”
Moving populations lose their property either in wars and conflicts or while traveling .They often find themselves in terrible social conditions, which often results in severe humanitarian crises (60% of the displaced live in camps).
But the most dangerous result is joining terrorist forces .These citizens, under the pressure of their security, economic and social conditions often end up within extremist and mafia groups that attract them to strengthen its ranks.
For this reason, countries must realize the seriousness of these consequences on African security. They should develop joint policies in cooperation with regional organizations in Africa that enable the social inclusion of internally displaced people (IDPs) and provide them with (education, jobs, housing, health, etc.).It is one of the most important ways to stop the influence of extremist and criminal groups on the displaced population, especially children and youth. Boko Haram is the most important terrorist organization that recruits children.