Academic journal article African Studies Review

No Refuge: The Crisis of Refugee Militarization in Africa

Academic journal article African Studies Review

No Refuge: The Crisis of Refugee Militarization in Africa

Article excerpt

Robert Muggah, ed. No Refuge: The Crisis of Refugee Militarization in Africa. London: Zed Books. 2006. xviii + 261 pp. Tables. Maps. Notes. Index. $29.99, Paper.

No Refuge: The Crisis of Refugee Militarization in Africa is written explicitly from the perspective of international relations, emphasizing the role of states, international organizations, and donors in the militarization of refugee camps. The book is a well-coordinated collection that includes an introductory essay, four case studies written by different authors about the militarization of refugee populations (in Guinea, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda), and a concluding chapter. The data derive from the late 1990s and early 2000s, with similar questions addressed in each case and due attention given to historical context. Four themes are explored in each essay: the manner that refugees become pawns of warfare; the extent to which refugees become active agents in militarization; refugee militarization and the humanitarian community; and the relationship between refugee militarization and small arms availability. What emerges is an image of refugee populations buffeted by the political interests of host, home, and donor states, and a simultaneous plea for humanitarian neutrality.

It is clear from No Refuge that refugee militarization has increased in recent years. Small arms are more widely available, and refugee camps are routinely used (or misused) by liberation movements, host countries seeking political advantage in neighboring countries, and big power politics. These are not uniquely African problems-after all, refugee militarization was a major issue for Afghan refugees. But Africa has seen an increase in the flow of arms and an acceleration in host government attempts to militarize refugee camps. In all four cases, the interests of the refugees were shaped by issues that went well beyond the humanitarian neutrality subscribed to in international treaties. The proliferation of small arms during the wars of the late 1990s and early 2000s also meant that organized banditry became a common and unwelcome by-product of such militarization. Host and home countries predictably demonize refugee populations for contributing to political instability and banditry, as they each seek to extend self-serving regional political interests.

In the end the authors' hard-hitting approach left me wondering who were the humanitarian good guys and who were the militarized bad guys. …

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