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About this book

This volume sheds new light on the refugees and forced migration at the Horn of Africa and East Africa. Adopting a multidisciplinary perspective, it traces historical, structural, and geopolitical factors to reveal the often brutal uprooting of people in a region that hosts more than three million refugees and almost six million internally displaced persons (IDPs). By doing so, it enriches our understanding of the socio-economic, geopolitical and humanitarian causes and implications of migration and population displacement.

The book is divided into five parts, focusing on different drivers of involuntary displacement and people’s uprooting: The first part covers geopolitical conflicts rooted partly in the colonial and Cold War geographies. The second part then focuses on security aspects and conflicts, while the third looks at encampment and refugee policies as well as refugee agencies. Part four highlights issues of forced repatriation and human trafficking. Lastly, part five analyzes the dynamics of refugee camps.

Table of Contents


Geopolitics and Forced Migration


Researching Refugees and Forced Migration in Eastern and Horn of Africa: Introducing the Issues

Refugees, forced migration, and human displacement are growing across the globe, and increasingly a growing body of scholarly literature has tried to capture the most important implications of this disturbing trend. Similarly, studies in Eastern and Horn of Africa have dramatically increased because of the complex and dynamic nature of displacement. While this is the case, researching refugees and forced migration remains challenging as evidenced in historical, political, policy, sociological, and anthropological studies. A systematic categorization of this academic literature focusing on the region is however lacking. This chapter traces the evolution of refugees and forced migration; identifies the issues and trends, the dominant conceptualizations, and policy responses; and uncovers the gaps that form suggestions for future studies.
Johannes Dragsbæk Schmidt, Leah Kimathi, Michael Omondi Owiso

Refugee Hosting and Conflict Resolution: Opportunities for Diplomatic Interventions and Buffeting Regional Hegemons

This contribution analyzes the role of refugee hosting countries on conflict resolution efforts in countries of origin. Using the international relations theory of hegemony, we argue that refugee hosting presents different opportunities and challenges to host states in furthering national interest. The act of hosting and bringing regional leaders together in their countries confers recognition and legitimacy to the host states role in conflict resolution. The international community involvement through UN agencies and other international nongovernmental organizations creates the need for enhanced security and increases accessibility to refugee hosting areas as well as the involvement of international media. This helps elevate the role of host countries in regional politics and permits them to negotiate resources and logistics for refugee hosting with international communities, humanitarian organizations, and neighboring countries. In conflict resolution, leadership plays a crucial role. Refugees in protracted situations and some of their leaders may save and invest heavily in their host countries. Such investments may contribute to conflict resolutions or prolong conflicts. How host governments regulate and facilitate migrant investment impacts peace settlements. In addition refugee and asylum seekers develop lasting ties with their hosts all the way from ordinary members of the community to national leadership of host countries. These personal relationships create obligations and deference. The host nations and their nationals come to learn the possible economic opportunities in the countries of origin which they aggressively pursue. For example, Kenyan and Ugandan business people were the first to initiate trade and commerce in South Sudan. Finally regional hubs such as Nairobi, Addis Ababa, and Kampala assume great prominence in regional diplomacy and efforts that have a bearing on conflict resolution.
Dulo Nyaoro

The Greater Horn of Africa: Geopolitical Aspects of the “Refugee Crisis”

Møller offers an account of the refugee flows in and out of the Greater Horn of Africa with a special emphasis on the (classical or critical) geopolitical aspects thereof. Distances still matter, both with regard to the causes of displacement and the destination. The main cause of refugee flows is armed conflict, which mainly takes place within countries or between neighbouring countries, and the first (and often final) destination of refugee flows is likewise neighbouring countries. The latter tendency is further strengthened by the efforts by the European Union to externalise its border controls, e.g. by means of “carrier sanctions” as a result of which it becomes almost impossible to reach a place where an application for asylum may be handed in and processed.
Bjørn Møller

Security and Conflict


The Securitization of Humanitarian Aid: A Case Study of the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya

The delivery of humanitarian assistance has always been a risky business. Now more than ever, there are more humanitarian organizations delivering aid in high-risk environments like refugee camps and war-torn regions. Within this operating environment, humanitarian principles such as neutrality, impartiality, and humanity have often failed to protect aid workers from violent attacks as they increasingly venture into a world inhabited by “surplus populations.” As a result, security is now embedded in the conceptualization, planning, and delivery of humanitarian aid. Paradoxically, there is an enduring tension between humanitarianism and security especially at the operational level. This tension leaves frontline humanitarian workers exposed to the same elements of insecurity that persistently threaten the lives of those they endeavor to help. This contribution investigates how the securitization of humanitarian aid plays out in the Dadaab camp complex and how this affects aid delivery including the humanitarian community.
Leah Kimathi

Securitization of Kenya’s Asylum Space: Origin and Legal Analysis of the Encampment Policy

Kenya’s encampment policy has existed since the refugee influx of 1991. The policy restricts the movement of refugees contrary to the applicable laws, yet there is a dearth of analysis on it. This contribution analyzes the formalization of the encampment policy using the securitization theory. It argues that the securitization process of refugee policy in Kenya began earlier than 1991 as evidenced by parliamentary discourse between 1963 and 2006. Furthermore, it argues that failure of legal reasoning by the courts of law perpetuates the restrictive policy in spite of a clear constitutional argument for its abolishment. Data was drawn primarily from Parliamentary Hansards as the official record of parliamentary proceedings.
Andrew Maina

Regional Integration by Military Means: The Case of the East African Standby Force

The wider Horn of Africa is faced with a conundrum: Is it possible for weak and fragility-prone states to form and create effective regional security institutions? The logical answer would be no, since combining two weak units does not create something strong. Nevertheless, that is what the states in East Africa are attempting to do with the establishment of the EASF, which was declared fully operational in December 2014. The Horn of Africa has been plagued by (proxy) wars, until recently the hostility between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the political volatility of Kenya and Ethiopia, and largely uncontrolled cross-border activities. The contribution shows that despite increased cooperation on regional security, the EASF is for political reasons yet to become an effective regional security management tool.
Thomas Mandrup

Poverty, Development and Agency


Refugee Undesirability and Economic Potentials: Questioning Encampment Policy in Forced Migration

Refugee undesirability has become more common in many countries. They are often seen as a nuisance, dependent as well as a social and security threat. In many developing countries, encampment of refugees has been considered as a more practical policy for management of refugee influx in forced migration situations. However, this policy approach ignores the positive economic potential of refugees, despite situations of complex humanitarian emergencies. Refugees create a ready market for local goods, bring foreign currency into the country through remittances and donor funding that has to be brought in for purchase of humanitarian supplies, as well as create an intercultural mix that is beneficial to the host country.
Elias O. Opongo

The Merowe Dam in Northern Sudan: A Case of Population Displacement and Impoverishment

This chapter analyzes in detail the effects of the Merowe Dam project in Sudan, highlighting population displacement and impoverishment of three communities: the Hamadab, Amri, and Manasir. Within the scholarship of development-induced displacement and resettlement (DIDR), as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs), the contribution takes a critical approach by assessing two World Bank variables in its impoverishment risks and reconstruction (IRR) model: landlessness and homelessness. By exploring the decade-long history of the dam project, its sources of funding and stakeholders, as well as legal documents and media reports, the chapter concludes that the dam and the Sudanese government systematically violated the human rights of the three tribal groups by forcing them onto less fertile land and failing to deliver key compensation promises to the affected populations.
Iman A. I. Ahmed

The Global and Local Politics of Refugee Management in the Horn: Ethiopian Refugee Policy and Eritrean Refugee Agency

A focus on the burdened refugee-hosting state has led to gaps in our understanding of the politics of refugee management. Based on a multi-sited ethnographic study, we explore how the management of refugees operates as a form of transnational state-making and the refugee political agency that results. Focusing on education among Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, we argue that refugees’ decisions about secondary migration are shaped by their sense of political belonging and trust, or lack thereof, in the caretaking capacity of the host state and, in turn, that the way the host state situates refugees depends on whether or not caring for a particular refugee population enables that state to strengthen their international and regional reputation by doing so.
Jennifer Riggan, Amanda Poole

Forced Repatriation, Trafficking and Legal Perspectives


The Counter-Trafficking in Persons’ Architecture in Kenya: A Security Governance Perspective

The many and nuanced strategies adopted by human traffickers have rendered the management of the crime to require complexity in the way it is being approached. This is because of the inner workings and the multiplicity of actors, individuals, governments, nongovernmental organisations and criminal networks, traffickers, transnational entities as well as the international community, which in diverse ways either perpetuate it or work towards managing it. Because of this, a study into human trafficking calls for an all-encompassing approach. This contribution looks into the actors and institutions involved in human trafficking in Kenya from a security governance perspective and interrogates the realities, interventions and gaps in the measures against the crime. It contends that although strategies have been put in place to manage the crime, there still exist loopholes which lead to inadequacy. Further, from a security governance perspective, the interventions in place also reveal gaps in the prosecution, protection, prevention and partnership in the fight against human trafficking.
Michael Omondi Owiso

Protection of Cross-Border Victims of Natural Disasters and Displacement in East Africa

This contribution argues that the cross-border victims of natural disasters are protected under the existing legal framework of international refugee law. Global warming has now more than ever rendered many geographical regions uninhabitable. From mudslides and earthquakes to rising sea levels that submerge islands, humanity faces a threat, whose existence was not explicitly provided for under the regime of refugee law, but one that has nonetheless been the cause of major migration patterns. This has thrown the international community into disarray, with arguments existing both for and against the inclusion of such displaced individuals, in the regime of refugee protection. This contribution interrogates the various regional and international treaties and conventions that protect refugees and advances the theory that the regime of refugee law has evolved to encompass the modern-day victims of forced displacement that occurs as a result of natural phenomena.
Alvin Attalo, Victor Nyamori

From Co-option, Coercion to Refoulement: Why the Repatriation of Refugees from Kenyan Refugee Camps Is Neither Voluntary Nor Dignified

In UNHCR language the last three decades have been the years of voluntary repatriation. As one of the three pillars of durable solution for the refugee situation, voluntary repatriation has been promoted as the most desirable and acceptable solution. However, maintaining the voluntary character of repatriation is problematic amid competing national interests and international legal obligations. While voluntary repatriation was conceived as a durable solution for asylum, it has now become a political tool. Refugees and humanitarian organizations have balked at the way governments operationalize voluntary repatriation. Repatriation of refugees now happens even when the situations in the countries of origin remain insecure. This contribution argues that to speed the process of voluntary repatriation of refugees, the Kenyan government has adopted practices and tactics that undermine the very voluntary character and spirit of repatriation. These include co-opting humanitarian agencies, inducement of refugees to return, and outright coercion through issuance of deadlines of camp closures. Besides troubling judicial rulings and belligerent pronouncement from government officials, co-option includes scaling down of services, reduction of personnel by agencies, and closure of schools in the camps with promise of relocating to countries of origin. Donors are requested to redirect funding. All these combine to make repatriation appear more as an imperative rather than a choice in the eyes of refugees.
Dulo Nyaoro

The Dadaab Camp and Its Dynamics


“We Cannot Manage This Plight Alone Anymore”: Analysing the Kenyan Threats to Forcibly Repatriate All Somali Refugees from Dadaab Camp

The closing of the Dadaab Refugee Camp has been at stake for several years already. However, in spite of the threats from the Kenyan government, the camp is still open, although relations between refugees and the local population are not optimal all the time. Through an analysis of the main legal instruments applicable at the situation and the practice put in place by both the Kenyan authorities and the organisations (governmental and non-governmental) working there, I highlight that Kenya cannot be the only responsible in handling Dadaab and all its issues. Repatriation of Somalis seems to be an option, but evidences show that this is not an option all the time and not for all the caseloads. But it is clear that a final solution should be found for all the Somalis living there because they need to know what their future holds. They do not deserve to continue living in the present incertitude for years, for decades or, worse, for the rest of their lives. As all the human beings, also Somalis in Dadaab need a peaceful and serene life that Kenya, without any external help, cannot provide to all of them.
Cristiano D’Orsi

State Sovereignty vs. Refugees’ Resilience: Repatriation, Securitization, and Transnationalism in Dadaab

Focusing on state-civic dynamics in refugee repatriation schemes, this contribution aims to go beyond the conventional understanding of refugees as victims. It proposes a dialectical process of interconnected state actions, humanitarian concerns, and refugee responses. Employing Simmel’s form and content analysis to better understand and explain the dynamics of transnational formations, the study empirically highlights refugee responses to Dadaab policy discourses by Kenyan authorities. Apart from the analysis of documents from Kenyan authorities, the UN, and NGOs, the work builds on a fieldwork method among 25 refugees both in Kenya and in Somalia as well as interviews with transnational community members in Denmark.
The study finds that though formally occupying different roles, states and humanitarian organizations collaborate in the implementation of refugee state policies letting the displaced to seek civic—mainly transnational and communal—alternatives.
Abdulkadir Osman Farah

Forging Associations Across Multiple Spaces: How Somali Kinship Practices Sustain the Existence of the Dadaab Camps in Kenya

Scholars increasingly have challenged the idea that camps as social worlds can only be visualized in terms of helplessness, immobility, and isolation. Similarly, this contribution demonstrates that Somali kinship practices of scattering family members to simultaneously exploit the potential offered by multiple places generated social networks that helped in sustaining the continued existence of Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. Drawing on the segmentary lineage logic and on camp-based ethnographic research, it argues that humanitarian policies did not reflect the realities on the ground. The severity of camp conditions inspired Somalis to improvise on kinship to maneuver bureaucratic hurdles, which did not cohere with vulnerability understandings of humanitarianism. Forming and breaking up of groups positively transformed refugees’ lives, though it also institutionalized tensions in social relations.
Fred Nyongesa Ikanda


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