Africa Needs World's Attention, Warns Holy See

Situation Critical, It Tells U.N. Committee

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GENEVA, MARCH 14, 2005 ( The Holy See says that the international community cannot simply look on passively in the face of the refugee crises in Sudan and elsewhere in Africa.

This point was made in a speech given last Thursday and made public today. Monsignor Fortunatus Nwachukwu, nunciature counselor at the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations at Geneva, gave the speech at the 32nd meeting of the Standing Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The four-day meeting began March 8.

«The refugee situation in Africa remains a deep scar on the human family everywhere,» said Monsignor Nwachukwu.

The «international community should no longer delay an already overdue response,» he said. «Such a delay would imply acceptance of a double standard in solidarity at the expense of the voiceless and most marginalized people.»

In particular, Monsignor Nwachukwu mentioned instances where «the humanitarian situation is critical. Systematic attacks on the civil populations, the destruction of infrastructures and entire villages, and the elimination of livestock and crops lead to widespread displacement of the civilian population.

«The attacks are brutal and violent, and human rights violations are a daily occurrence. Particularly vulnerable are women subjected to rape and other forms of degradation. An environmental disaster is being created that will take years to restore.»

The monsignor continued: «The various U.N. reports are quite clear and forceful, and describe many of the events as crimes against humanity and/or war crimes, ‘not less serious and heinous than genocide.’

«If a person is lucky, he or she becomes a refugee by crossing the border and ends up in a refugee camp in Chad, where protection and some relative safety may be provided. If individuals and families stay behind, they end up by joining one of the largest internally displaced populations in the world, often at high risk and where security cannot be guaranteed.»

Monsignor Nwachukwu went on to ask: «What institution will be structurally responsible for the protection of IDPs? As [an] international community, we should develop a reliable system which effectively protects those staying in their own country, but displaced from their homes.

«The Holy See delegation encourages a further development of a clearer system of responsibility for IDPs, while realizing that this involvement in protection and human rights issues will require larger human and financial resources and, above all, the political will to act, to intervene and take the arms off the hands of aggressors.»

«The longer the delay to act, the greater the risk of more uprooted and abused people and of undermining hard-achieved peace agreements,» he warned. «The way forward is to stop the flow of arms into the conflict, to hold individuals accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity, to take action now and give new hope to Africa and to all refugees.»

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