Its repercussions continue to be felt today throughout the region and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of people in the region have remained displaced, some for decades, with no solutions in sight, while thousands of others have found themselves re-displaced. Of course, recurrent episodes of conflict and violence are not unique to the Great Lakes region. One only has to look at the First World War, the war that was supposed to end all wars, to see how one major conflict can set the stage for another—in this case, the Second World War. Yet it is self-evident that there is insufficient understanding of and response to violence in the Great Lakes—indeed, in Africa as a whole.
Instead, there is often a disconnect between realities on the ground and policy responses. As a result, often in situations of conflict on the continent an adjective is prescribed by external commentators that is quickly accepted as gospel—most commonly ethnic or tribal, and sometimes sectarian. Time and again, this misdiagnosis proves to be a dangerous business.
Once a label is fixed to a conflict it can become not only a dominant explanation for that conflict, but can also overly influence approaches to resolution. It is not surprising, therefore, that ceasefires, peace agreements and externally enforced power sharing arrangements based on reductive understandings of causes of conflict prove to be quick fixes, little more than holding exercises until conflict breaks out again.
At the same time, peace agreements that do incorporate text that addresses drivers of conflict often fail to be implemented. While some disputed this narrative—and there was also a logic to it that was borne out in reality—this binary representation of conflict failed to allow for a full understanding of the multiple complex factors driving a war that was, in fact, between a centralised state and multiple sites of marginalisation across the country. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA that was signed in was eventually whittled down to only one of its elements—the referendum on the independence of the south—despite its comprehensive provisions on democratisation and political pluralism.
The misdiagnosis of the problem enabled those with short term political agendas to scrap the democratic transformation agenda that had been included in the CPA, and consequently the secession of the South has failed to generate peace in either Sudan or the new South Sudan.
About this book
In the same way, the prevalent interpretation of past violence in Rwanda—and, therefore, the response to that violence—has often been reduced to ethnic genocide of Tutsis by Hutus in There is seldom mention of the broader context of violence including an ongoing rebel war and attacks on refugees camps in eastern DRC in which the genocide took place. As a result, inadequate recognition has been given of the need to engage with broader issues of post- conflict as opposed to exclusively post-genocide recovery, and has enabled the post-genocide government to avoid scrutiny for its own actions.
A key problem with placing conflict into these moulds is that it positions individuals caught up in them—and, often, displaced from them— into one-dimensional categories. This approach ignores local realities in which people create and maintain multiple forms of belonging not least in order to ensure multiple forms of legitimacy and access to resources. These strategies of belonging are highlighted by those who are forced into exile either within their own state or outside of it.
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These narratives are in direct contrast to a deep and long- developed literature on conflict, citizenship and refugees, and on the exclusionary logics of states and humanitarian governance. In response, this book examines the convergence of two problems— the ongoing realities of conflict and forced migration in the Great Lakes region, and the crisis of citizenship and belonging.
By bringing them together, the intention is not to create a bigger problem but to see how, by looking at them in one space, one can point the way towards possible solutions. It argues that issues of inclusion and exclusion animate and sustain cycles of violence and displacement in the Great Lakes region and beyond. By the same logic, expanding spaces for belonging becomes an important part of creating the conditions for sustainable peace.
It argues that citizenship and belonging are both the cause and part of a possible resolution to ongoing conflict and displacement in the region. The lived reality of exile—incorporating both the response of and response to refugees— provides a litmus test for understanding these dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. Therefore, this book explores the multiple factors, dynamics or relationships that revolve around an individual refugee—or group of refugees—and the ways in which these factors enhance or com- promise their ability to belong.
In turn, it points towards broader issues of conflict and demonstrates why, until key issues around belonging are resolved and are reflected in equitable governance structures, the region will remain prone to the resurgence of episodes of violence, conflict and consequent displacement. This book seeks to place the research in a broader frame and to draw out key findings and lessons learned from across the case studies. Each one focused, in some way, on the linkages between citizenship and forced displacement in the Great Lakes region, and specifically examined the differences and, more importantly, the interaction between local and national understandings of belonging.
In essence, it argues that the logic of exclusion that is at work in formal, legal mechanisms of citizenship in postcolonial states in the Great Lakes colludes with the logic of the refugee regime as manifest in the mechanics of humanitarianism , that helps maintain exclusion as the default position for those who have been exiled from their state and which affects the ability of those displaced internally to integrate and the prospects for return of both groups.
However, it also argues that the problem is far broader, and lies in the fact that the dilemmas around access to meaningful citizenship that so adversely affect refugees in the Great Lakes region are actually born of the very logic of modern states themselves, not just postcolonial African ones. The book also draws on subsequent visits by the author to the region, including to South Sudan in October and May , and Burundi in February The main intention throughout the research was to consider the linkages between conflict and displacement on the one hand, and the dynamics of exclusion and access to citizenship on the other.
Under this broad framework, specific facets were explored in each of the case studies in order to gain insight into different aspects of the lived experience of exile and possible resolution to that exile. Thus, the main question throughout the research was how issues around access to citizenship and processes of exclusion affect the experience of displacement, and the various forms of belonging that are deployed by those who are displaced in order to best find safety freedom from fear and freedom from want in exile.
The scope was simultaneously broad and specific. The book does not offer full historical analyses of the many complex contextual issues that would allow each case study to become a book in its own right; there is already a rich literature that has done this. However, it does use intensely context-specific studies to illuminate the argument. In its analysis, the book draws together two connected, but slightly different, approaches to understanding the dynamics of conflict, displacement and belonging in the Great Lakes region.
In effect, the purpose is to utilise two lenses which, when combined, show where a situation is brought into focus, and where it is distorted. The first lens, a primarily legal and policy one, engages with many of the categories and assumptions that lie behind the primarily state-centric and legal framework in which refugeesvii are supposed to exist. The second, a more socio- anthropological lens, seeks to deprioritise, or even discard, these categorisations and instead look at forms of belonging and exclusion that exist despite, or in addition to, these structures.
The book, therefore, exists in the somewhat murky waters between the demands of refugee legal protection and the rigours of social science research. It tries to hold in tension the fact that spaces for refugee protection are continually shrinking and the label, refugee, is a crucial tool for targeting and maintaining a focus on a specific legal category of people who are living with the realities of a specific set of circumstances.
In the case of the former, preservation of the neatly defined category of refugee is seen as crucial: the language of human rights generally, and refugee rights specifically, provides a tool for those targeting national and international policymakers. It ensures an arsenal of international and hopefully national legislation that can back up demands for promoting the rights of refugees. Those who fall into this camp are often practitioners who are working specifically within a human rights agenda, and who recognise that the shrinking space for protection for refugees makes this a category in need of protection.
Indeed, they see any collapsing of categories as a threat to refugee protection. The author identifies strongly with this perspective. Yet the findings also demonstrate that the shortcomings of such an approach need to be recognised: the rigidity of categorisation can all too often lead to an over-reliance on policy- driven approaches that are, by nature, a somewhat blunt instrument that fails to interact sufficiently with the context.
This expanding of categories is intuitively appealing for those who are comfortable dealing with ambiguities and who recognise that tidy legal categories rarely reflect reality. This book seeks to hold these two viewpoints in tension. As a result, on the one hand there was a clear policy dimension to the study: the need for citizenship and refugee policy to be realigned, and the way in which this might take place, was unashamedly part of the motivation in carrying out the research.
At the same time, the approach was mindful of the need to ensure that the research was not driven by these policy imperatives, and that the findings were able to speak for themselves regardless of the policy context. This co-dependence has remained a defining feature, and research is often judged and defined by its relevance—or ability—to engender positive change.
Yet at the same time there is a growing body of literature that questions the utility of an approach that has become so strongly policy-driven. It was action-oriented in its outlook, but sought to allow the context to drive any action that was promoted, rather than the other way round. Qualitative methods of data collection were used, conducting one-on-one interviews with refugees, members of the host population and relevant officials in each of the seven countries where fieldwork was conducted.
A total of 1, individual interviews were conducted in all. Relevant policy documents and articles on refugees, displacement, repatriation and citizenship were also incorporated into each individual study. Field research was, for the most part, conducted by teams of researchers, all of whom were trained and led by the author. To the extent possible, interviews took place in the language in which the interviewee was most comfortable. We sought to avoid the use of translators where possible, instead recruiting field researchers who had the relevant language skills.
We also had to adapt our methodology to highly complex security environments. Some of the research was conducted in locations where conflict was ongoing, which inevitably created specific challenges.
Refugees: A Reading List (Published 2015 thru 2018)
The details of these adaptations are, by necessity, opaque. Needless to say, the security and safety of those with whom we worked, and those who were interviewed by us, was paramount throughout. Although the focus is on East and Central Africa, the book has application beyond the region, pointing to drivers and failures that continue to feed the global refugee crisis. By the same logic, expanding spaces for belonging helps create the conditions for sustainable peace.
It argues that citizenship and belonging are both a cause, and part of a possible resolution, to ongoing conflict and displacement in the region. Based on 1, interviews carried out between and with refugees, internally displaced groups and returnees in seven countries of the Great Lakes region as part of a research project overseen by the International Refugee Rights Initiative, I argue that the reality of exile provides a litmus test for understanding these dynamics of inclusion and exclusion.
Shortcomings in refugee policy, which often maintain marginalisation as the default position for those who have been exiled from their state, then collude with the logic of exclusion that is at work in formal, legal mechanisms of citizenship in these postcolonial states.
Refugees, Conflict and the Search for Belonging by Lucy Hovil | | Booktopia
The book holds in tension the fact that, on the one hand, spaces for refugee protection are continually shrinking and the label, refugee, is a crucial tool for targeting and maintaining protection of the rights of a specific legal category of people both during exile and at the point of return.
On the other, realities on the ground demonstrate that refugees have multiple identities, deploy multiple coping strategies, and often defy neat categories. I do not claim that one or the other is right, but argue that both narratives need to listen to and interact with each other. The book maintains a clear engagement with legal categories through an emphasis on policy and the extent to which I uphold the use of categorisation; but also demonstrates the inadequacies of an overreliance on these categories, and shows the need for far greater nuance and flexibility in adapting to specific contexts.
Refugees, Conflict and the Search for Belonging
The findings reveal the multiple ways in which refugees forge spaces for belonging in ways that often contradict — or even subvert — national and international policies, and point to the somewhat obvious fact that policy needs to be bottom up, rather than top-down, something that has long been recognised by practitioners and academics alike but has yet to infuse much programming on the ground. The findings, therefore, point to the tenuous nature of state-bounded citizenship that has failed to accommodate the reality that notions of inclusion and exclusion function in multiple ways that go beyond — or even discard — national citizenship.
At the same time, they also demonstrate that whether for those living on the margins within their own state, or refugees pushed to the edges of a polity in exile, citizenship retains strong symbolic — as well as, at times, real — value.
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