The role of citizenship in addressing refugee crises in Africa’s Great Lakes Region

Published: 20/Jun/2014
Source: International Refugee Rights Initiative

In this paper, citizenship is used as a framework to analyse the problem of forced displacement in Africa’s Great Lakes region. Based on nine case studies across the region carried out by the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) over six years, it contends that the framework of citizenship can contribute positively to a better understanding of, and better policy responses to, forced displacement in the region.

Citizenship is understood both as access to legal citizenship, and more broadly as a recognition of the right of a person to belong in a community and the power of that acceptance/belonging as a means of accessing other rights. The paper contends that while there are many causes of political conflict and displacement in the region, unequal or inadequate access to citizenship has been a major contributing cause. National and regional governance structures have repeatedly failed to protect their citizens and have questioned or undermined the right to belong of whole sections of the population. Such actions have led to violations of the rights of these targeted groups, and often governments have failed to hold leaders or other organs of government accountable. The creation and presence of significant numbers of refugees throughout the region is a physical consequence of this challenge to belonging.

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Themes: Nationality and Refugees
Regions: Central Africa, Burundi, East Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania
Year: 2014