OVERVIEW. Since independence in the 1950s and 1960s, postcolonial African societies have been characterized by civil wars and ethnic conflicts. Many Africans had hoped that independence from European colonial rule would usher in a period of peace and prosperity in all areas of life for the entire population. However, this anticipation has rather been usurped by several unending civil wars and ethnic conflicts that have not only claimed millions of lives but have also produced – and continue to produce – streams of desperate refugees fleeing across national borders in search of security and protection. Many of these victims have been women and children. This chapter examines the history of the African refugee problem; the major theories on the subject; national, regional, and international initiatives on African refugees; current practices of refugee hosting inside and outside the continent; legal issues; cultural and diversity concerns; and issues for research on African refugees.
By the end of the chapter, the reader should be able to:
Define a refugee based on the UN definition of the term.
Outline the historical causes of the refugee problem in Africa.
Identify, describe, and evaluate the major theoretical paradigms on refugees.
Outline the legal rights, as well as the major problems facing African refugees both inside and outside Africa.
Discuss peace-building strategies in efforts to end the African refugee problem.