Managing Forced Displacement by Law in Africa: The Role of the New African Union IDPs Convention

86 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2011 Last revised: 14 Feb 2011

Won Kidane

Seattle University School of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2011


This Article provides a critical appraisal of the newly adopted African IDPs Convention. In particular, it offers a detailed analysis of the Convention’s transformation of the UN Guiding Principles into legally binding rules for the management of the phenomenon of internal displacement in Africa. By definition, internally displaced persons (IDPs) are persons who have not crossed international frontiers and are citizens of the state within which they find themselves. Although their conditions may be similar to refugees, who are necessarily aliens to the host community, their legal status is not analogous. At the most basic level, there is no doctrinal agreement on whether “IDP” is a legal status at all. This has created a fundamental doctrinal dilemma. The Article analyzes the merits of the arguments for and against according IDPs a distinctive legal status analogous to refugees. It also provides a detailed discussion of the important provisions that define the rights and responsibilities of IDPs and the various state and non-state actors during the three most important phases – before displacement, during displacement, and after return.

Keywords: Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, Refugees, Forced Displacement, Forced Migration, Refugee Law in Africa, Development and Displacement, Environment and Displacement, UN Guiding Principles, The Cluster Approach to Forced Displacement

Suggested Citation

Kidane, Won, Managing Forced Displacement by Law in Africa: The Role of the New African Union IDPs Convention (January 1, 2011). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 44, No. 1, January 2011; Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 11-05. Available at SSRN:

Won Kidane (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue
Sullivan Hall
Seattle, WA 98122
United States
206-398-4390 (Phone)
206-398-4036 (Fax)

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