Refugee coloniality: an Afrocentric analysis of prolonged encampment in Kenya

Author: Bosco Odoloma Opi

Odoloma Opi, Bosco, 2021 Refugee coloniality: an Afrocentric analysis of prolonged encampment in Kenya, Flinders University, College of Business, Government and Law

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This thesis is a critical examination of ‘prolonged’ refugee encampment in Kenya. By foregrounding encampment in Kenya, the thesis demonstrates how the camp – a temporary solution to the refugee phenomenon – has become a permanent institution for the concentration of so many refugees. With 33 of 54 African nations establishing some of the largest refugee camps in the world, millions of refugees have effectively become in situ, trapped in prolonged encampment. Current approaches such as the institutionalisation of the camp and the securitisation of borders, are critically analysed by placing the problem of refugee encampment against the context of colonial relations in Africa. Refugee encampment prevents free movement across borders and those borders must be understood, this thesis argues, as part of the legacy and persistence of colonial power.

Methodologically, this thesis is an interdisciplinary undertaking; a critical legal analysis of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the 1951 Convention), the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (the 1969 Convention), and Kenyan domestic legislation relevant to refugees. It uses the socio-political and cultural frameworks of the camp, and key themes such as securitisation, sovereignty, borders, campzenship and Ujamaa to reveal the colonial/imperial continuity embedded within encampment paradigm. The interdisciplinary methodology applies diverse theoretical and conceptual frameworks to the legal texts/laws that regulate the existence and persistence of the camp as a permanent security architecture.

Addressing encampment as emanating from colonially bordered Africa reveals the continuation of the colonial logics structuring prolonged encampment while also highlighting that current theoretical and practical approaches to resolve the problem have failed. As such, this thesis makes a significant contribution to knowledge by enriching scholarly understanding of the camp. This thesis offers a detailed and nuanced reading of the role played by international refugee law in producing the problem of prolonged encampment in Africa. Inspired by my own embodied history of encampment in Kenya, this thesis models and advances an Afrocentric approach to understanding prolonged encampment in Africa.

Keywords: Refugees, Afrocentrism, coloniality, encampment

Subject: Law thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2021
School: College of Business, Government and Law
Supervisor: Dr Maria Giannacopoulos