This article explores the complexity of managing refugee issues, particularly
refugee repatriations, taking the Horn of Africa as a case. I argue that refugee
repatriation endeavours are complex because their success depends on at
least four actors, each with different – indeed often conflicting – interests. I
examine the proposition that as the number of actors involved in a given
issue area increases so does the likelihood of less-than-successful outcomes.
This is particularly true if resource-poor actors are included in the decision-making process, and, because of the need to extract maximum benefits and/or
minimise maximum losses, usually operate under the assumption of zero-sum situations. This assumption narrows their range of responses and
hampers their ability to engage in mutually beneficial exchange
relationships. As a result, repatriations, which are necessarily consensus-based, become more difficult to accomplish successfully as evidenced in the
Horn of Africa.