Academic journal article African Studies Review

Eroding Local Capacity: International Humanitarian Action in Africa

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Eroding Local Capacity: International Humanitarian Action in Africa

Article excerpt

Monica Kathina Juma and Astri Suhrke, eds. Eroding Local Capacity: International Humanitarian Action in Africa. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute, 2003. 203 pp. Bibliography. Index. 220 SEK/$18.00. Paper.

This tightly focused set of nine essays includes an introductory essay written by the editors that proposes a framework for humanitarian action in the lesser developed countries, and a reflective conclusion written by juma alone that seeks to draw lessons from the current state of such action. The focus is sharply drawn: refugee work since independence in Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Following the introduction, a set of three essays critically examines international humanitarian action. Astri Suhrke looks at the forms of action and the assumptions behind them that have emerged over the period since independence. Mutoy Mubiala casts a critical eye over the framework of international law that has been uncomfortably set down on precolonial African practices in dealing with victims of war. Bonaventure Rutinwa then considers the potential of the revived East African Community to deal with such shared issues as refugees. This section offering a regional overview is followed by four country essays which discuss the manner in which local capacity has been eroded in each of the four cases.

The country studies generally make the point that local agents have been ignored or pushed aside, that expatriates employed by international agencies, NGOs, or foreign governments have done little to explore local action or ideas, and thus that the capacity for local action has deteriorated. Bonaventure Rutinwa discusses the way local potential in Tanzania has been marginalized through the growth of paternalistic assumptions in the international agencies. Peter Mwangi Kagwanja then considers the present state of relief action in Kenya and ways in which it could be revitalized. …

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