Academic journal article Refuge

In Limbo: Dependency, Insecurity, and Identity Amongst Somali Refugees in Dadaab Camps

Academic journal article Refuge

In Limbo: Dependency, Insecurity, and Identity Amongst Somali Refugees in Dadaab Camps

Article excerpt


The Somali civil war of 1991 left thousands of refugees scattered in neighbouring countries. This article examines the situation of the 130,000 Somalis in their second decade in Dadaab camps in Kenya, with a particular focus on the role and responsibilities of the refugee regime and the host state. It is argued that these camps are characterized by deprivations of both material and physical security. Research found that refugees' dependency on inadequate aid is due to lack of alternative livelihoods rather than "dependency syndrome." However, participants expressed diminished "self-esteem" resulting from their prolonged encampment. Finally, the paper presents a critique of the failure to explore solutions for protracted refugee situations on the part of the international refugee regime.


La guerre civile de 1991 en Somali a laisse des milliers de refugies eparpilles dans les pays avoisinants. Cet article examine le sort des' 130,000 somaliens qui sont a leur deuxieme decennie dans les camps de Dadaab au Kenya, avec une emphase particuliere sur le role et les responsibilities de la convention sur les refugies et du pays hote. L'article soutient que ces camps sont caracteises par un manque de securite tant au niveau physique que materiel. Des etudes ont demontre que la dependance des refugies sur de l'assistance--quoique cette assistance est elle-meme insuffisante--decoule d'une absence de voies alternatives pour gagner sa vie plutot d'un syndrome de dependance. Toutefois, les participants ont exprime un sens diminue d'estime de sol, resultant de leur sejour prolonge dans le camp. Pour terminer. L'article examine de facon critique le fait que la convention internationale sur les refugies ait failli dans son devoir de rechercher des solutions alternatives pour des gens se retrouvant comme refugies pour un laps de temps prolongS.

Protracted political limbo still prevails in Somalia as it enters its fourteenth year of "statelessness." Despite the precarious situation of Somali refugees scattered across many parts of the world, both the country and the plight of its refugees remain off the radar of world media. The atrocities committed in the process of tumbling Siad Barre's regime in 1991, and the clan-based power struggles that followed, led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Somalis. The refugees initially fled to the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya, subsequently moving on to countries near and far. Those who were fortunate enough to escape the trials and tribulations inherent in exile in countries such as Kenya, where existing resources are barely able to meet the basic needs of the native population and where most refugees still remain in closed camps, moved on to more prosperous countries Where they obtained refugee status. Most refugees were not so fortunate, however. (1)

The focus of this paper is on the approximately 130,000 Somali refugees who remain in limbo in camps in the North Eastern Province of Kenya (NEP). (2) Dadaab, a name given to three camps (Hagadera, Ifo, and Dhagahley), is located about 100 kilometres from the Somali-Kenya border. These camps were created in mid-1992 after it became almost impossible for the international humanitarian regime to run the camps in Liboi, a border region too close to southern Somalia where violence was still occurring on a daily basis. Security concerns for international staff, refugees, and humanitarian supplies all led to the creation of new camps further inside Kenyan territory. The region where Dadaab camps are located is semi-arid and was sparsely populated by nomadic Somali-Kenyans before the arrival of refugees fleeing the war. Hostilities between Kenya and Somalia, which claimed the Somali-inhabited Northern Frontier District (NFD) as a missing Somali territory and supported regional independence movements, persisted since independence in the early 1960s. Due to this tension, Kenya kept NFD, now known as North Eastern Province of Kenya (NEP), and its population under a permanent state of emergency from independence until 1992. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.