Center for Refugee Studies, Moi University, Kenya

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The Centre for Refugee Studies is a program of the Department of Government and Public Administration in the School of Social, Cultural and Development Studies at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya.

It began its activities in 1992 with a weeklong course for government officials and NGOs on “Refugee Rights and Law.” Its overall objectives are to establish CRS as a center of excellence in the study of forced migration and to create an environment in which people understand the root causes of refugee flows and which encourages them to be part of seeking solutions.

The Centre offers courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels and organizes public events designed to promote awareness of issues of displacement. It works to promote multidisciplinary approaches to refugee issues with a view to improving our understanding of the causes and consequences of forced population movement. CRS networks with NGO and agencies to improve refugee protection and seeks to develop strategies for successful integration of refugees. It also seeks to evaluate existing refugee programs and to explore the possibilities for more development-oriented programs.

CRS is also a center of research on forced migration in the region. It has grouped its research activities around the following themes:
  • History of Population Displacement in the Great Lakes Region
  • Refugee Policy and Legal Regime
  • The Humanitarian Regime, Assistance and Protection of Refugees
  • Economy and Livelihood of Refugees and IDPs
  • Culture of the Refugee Family: Behavioral Characteristics of Displaced Persons
  • Education of Refugees and Displaced Persons
  • Refugee Healthcare and Welfare
  • Conflict and Security Issues in Human Displacement
  • Gender Issues in Forced Migration

This VTechWorks collection is sponsored by the Virginia Tech Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention and by Brett Shadle, Associate Professor in the Department of History.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
  • Humanitarian Intervention and State Sovereignty in Africa: The Changing Paradigms in International Law
    Kindiki, Kithure (Moi University. Center for Refugee Studies, 2003)
    During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, gross violations of human rights were committed against civilians, many of whom were tortured before being murdered using crude weapons like machetes and nail-studded clubs. Despite the publicity given to the genocidal activities in both print and electronic media world-over, the international community largely failed to protect the Rwandan people from the atrocities. The Rwandan genocide, its devastating effects, and the inability of the international community to prevent, limit, or halt the atrocities came at a time when many African countries were, and still are, engulfed in deadly armed conflicts, most of which are intra-state in origin. They also came at an extraordinary time in history when so many ideas, relationships and institutions, which hitherto seemed solid, had began to 'dissolve' rapidly. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, debate has persisted regarding whether there are new emerging norms on when and how the international community can justifiably intervene to ameliorate and prevent domestic national conflicts and widespread human rights abuses. Until very recently, the question whether it can be permissible for the outside world to intervene with military force in the internal affairs of a sovereign country would have struck many as a non-issue. Sovereign countries, by definition, were not to be intervened in. A lawful war, it was explained, was a war in which a country sought to defend itself, or to defend a friend and ally against an attacking enemy. By contrast. going to war in order to change the way another country was conducting its affairs was therefore illegal. Then, in 1999, it began to look as if minds were changing. In that year a 'war of intervention' was messily but successfully fought over Kosovo, as a result of which the Balkans are a rather better place than they were before. A near-war of the same sort triumphantly achieved its purpose in East Timor, freeing a captured people from the rule of the Indonesian Army. This contribution examines the myriad dilemmas posed by collective international intervention, weighing the issue of state sovereignty and the concomitant doctrines of non-intervention and non-use of force against the perceived need for collective action to stop conflicts that often lead to bloodshed and human suffering. The contribution inquires if the so-called right or duty of humanitarian intervention has a basis in contemporary international law, and if so when, how, and by whom the right or duty may be invoked.
  • Refugees and the Proliferation of Illegal Small Arms and Light Weapons in Kenya
    Mogire, Edward O. (Moi University. Center for Refugee Studies, 2003)
    The devastation brought by the worldwide trafficking and proliferation of small arms and light weapons--man-portable weapons like assault rifles, mortars, and grenades--has overtaken land mines as the major problem facing governments and other interested groups in the non-governmental world and academia. Regional organisations in Europe, Latin America, and Africa as well as the UN (including, increasingly the Security Council) have taken up some aspect of small arms control. A major aspect in the discourse of small arms relates to the illicit or illegal arms trafficking, by which is usually (but not always) meant stocks of weapons already in circulation outside of government control. Increasingly, new stocks of small arms from various sources including government transfers (both overt and covert) as well as grey and black markets, are finding their way to African conflict theatres and they eventually reach illegal markets. For Kenya, the major problem issue with small arms relates to the trafficking and proliferation of illegal arms into the country. Although researchers and policy makers alike acknowledge that one way in which refugees threaten security is through the trafficking of illegal arms, little research has been done in this area. It is common practice in Kenya particularly among politicians and government officials, to attribute illegal weapons in the country to the presence of refugees: This paper aims at contributing to the small arms discourse by analysing the role of refugees as an external factor in the trafficking and cross border movement of illegal arms into the country. This analysis also contributes to the new scholarship in refugee studies which now considers refugees not only as victims (humanitarian issues) but also as capable of causing conflict and insecurity.
  • Legislating to Protect Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Kenya: A Note to the Legislator
    Abuya, Edwin O. (Moi University. Center for Refugee Studies, 2004)
    While Kenya hosts more that 200,000 asylum seekers the country still lacks comprehensive domestic legislation that would otherwise guarantee the rights promised to asylum seekers by international refugee law treaties. Kenya is signatory to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and its Protocol relating to the status of refugees. But since it follows the monist approach toward treaties, signing of a treaty per se cannot be the source of any legal rights, interests, liabilities or duties at the domestic level. Neither can it create any legitimate expectation that decision-makers will follow, or consider, when making decisions. At most, the signing remains a mere show of commitment to the rest of the world, that Kenya agrees in principle with a treaty's goals and ideals. This article traces the genesis of refugee protection and assistance at the end of World War I, arguing that initially refugee law and protection was Euro-centric and only targeted specific categories of trans-European refugees. Further, from 1920-1930, the refugee problem was seen as a passing cloud. Between 1930 and 1939, strategies changed from temporary approaches towards a more permanent solution that would substantively address the plight of trans-European refugees. Despite setbacks, refugee protection moves from the era of target-specific arrangements to all encompassing conventions, and refugee rights are further defined and prescribed. Yet few achievements are made in states that ratify the Conventions for two reasons: the rising xenophobia towards asylum seekers in Europe and, political events in Europe, especially the Third Reich, culminating in outbreak of the Second World War. Concrete steps toward writing a global treaty to protect refugees and asylum seekers were taken during the post-World War II era, beginning with the creation of United Nations, entrenching the High Commissioners Office into a statute, and culminating in passage of an international refugee treaty-Refugee Convention. This report demonstrates how the modern definition of the term "refugee" was shaped by the holocaust and cold war. Furthermore, the rising refugee situation in Europe and elsewhere, in the world, precipitated passage of the Refugee Protocol. This study concludes with specific legal and policy considerations.
  • The Crisis of Governance: Politics and Ethnic Conflict in Kenya
    Chelanga, James K.; Ndege, Peter O.; Singo, Stephen M. (Moi University. Center for Refugee Studies, 2009)
    The most pronounced characteristics of Kenya's governance since independence in 1963 are ethnicity, ethnic conflict and the politics of patronage and clientelism. Today, Kenya is more ethnically divided than it has ever been before in the history of its existence. In the last decade, for instance, ethnic violence erupted in seven of the country's eight provinces, claiming several hundreds of lives and displacing thousands of others. The persistence of ethnic conflicts in Kenya is unsettling. Apart from the fact that these conflicts lead to insecurity and loss of many lives and property, they also cast doubts about the efficacy of governance and a serious uncertainty regarding the prospects of democracy in the country. From an academic point of view the situation calls for a reassessment of existing views about ethnicity and its relations with politics. This research conducts a contextual and empirical analysis of the phenomenon of ethnicity, ethnic conflict and its relations with the processes of governance and constitutional reform. The objectives of this study were to: analyze ethnicity in the context of the political landscape in Kenya, establish links between economic, social, political and ethnic conflicts, examine how ethnic conflicts have been managed, and assess the influence of ethnicity on the ongoing constitutional reform and the debate on the presidential succession. This study gathered primary data through field surveys in areas that have experienced ethnic conflicts since 1990. Field interviews were carried out with respondents selected from victims of ethnic violence, politicians, lawyers, and officials of government, NGOs, churches, and civil societies. The study uses secondary data from relevant published works. The study concludes with an analysis of the implications of ethnicity and ethnic conflicts for the ongoing constitution reform process and draws theoretical and empirical conclusions regarding Kenya's experiences with ethnicity and ethnic conflicts, and recommends what should be done to reconcile competing ethnicity with responsible citizenship for the purpose of enhancing democratic governance.
  • The Economics of Displacement: A Study of the Changing Gender Roles, Relations and it's Impact on the Livelihood and Empowerment of Women Refugees in Kenyan Camps
    Opata, Grephas P.; Singo, Stephen M. (Moi University. Center for Refugee Studies, 2004)
    The phenomenon of the world's refugees and internally displaced persons is among the most complicated issues facing the international community today. The situation in Africa is particularly grave. Despite some positive developments in the protection of refugees over the past few years which have resulted in thousands of refugees returning home, the continent continues to face a major crisis. Africa carries the largest proportion of refugees and has since the 1980s hosted some of the longest standing refugee populations in the world. Of the world's estimated 20 million refugees, more than 30 % are found in Africa, and more than 75% of these are women and children. Over half of these African refugees are found in Eastern and Central Africa, a region that hosts more than one quarter of the total refugee population in Africa. Kenya currently hosts an estimated 235,000 refugees. In Kenya, programmes of assistance to refugees have concentrated mainly on emergency and relief supplies in camps. Refugees in the camps have been forced to settle on marginal, harsh, inadequately-serviced sites. In many instances they survive in conditions of squalor often worse than the situations from which they fled. The most affected are women, who are forced by circumstances to take on new roles but without access to the requisite resources. Apart from displacement, they also face numerous hurdles and problems. Given the above scenario, there is need for solutions to the refugee problem which are conceived within a framework that encompasses a shift from emergency response towards self-reliance and one that respects the abilities and rights of women. Such an approach would help refugees, particularly women, in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of their lives. It is against this background that this research project has been conceived. This study sought to generate data that would be essential in understanding the economics of displacement and the changing gender roles and relations and their impacts on the empowerment and livelihood of women refugees. The study also examined resource-related and gender-based violence, the entrepreneurial skills and coping mechanisms of women refugees, and explored ways in which women can become catalysts of the improvement of economic activities within refugee settlement area. It also examined the possible lasting solutions to the refugee problem. Turning to Africa, we observe that women have occupied a central role in the economy being the main producers and suppliers of welfare services. Likewise in commerce and trade, African women have always demonstrated entrepreneurial skills, yet women in asylum no longer have access to resources to enable them carry out these functions despite the heavy responsibilities that they are expected to bear. Despite constituting a majority of most refugee populations, women and girls do not always feature in proposed solutions. A combination of lack of information and popular assumptions that what suits men also suits women have resulted in the establishment of programmes and projects without due regard to differing gender requirements. Hence, the questions we may ask are: What happens to women in asylum? How does displacement impact their roles? What hurdles do they encounter as they adjust to the new roles? What coping mechanisms do they employ to overcome them? What is the main source of their livelihood? How sustainable are they? What economic activities do they engage in? What opportunities are available for them to improve, nurture and acquire new skills? A critical analysis of the above questions would go a long way in countering the disadvantages women refugees face. The study aims to highlight key issues regarding refugee livelihood, changing gender roles, relations and their impact on empowerment of refugee women, causes of gender based violence in the camps, entrepreneurial initiatives of refugees and make recommendations towards proper management of refugees in general and women refugees in particular. Field surveys were conducted in both Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. Kakuma refugee camp is situated in Kakuma division, Turkana District, North Rift region of Kenya. Dadaab camp is situated in Dadaab division, Garisa District, North Eastern Province of Kenya. Both camps are situated in the semi-arid parts of the country and they were set up by the government of Kenya in conjunction with UNHCR in the early 1990s. Several categories of respondents for the study were identified and sampled, including refugees, UNHCR officials, and officials from UNHCR partner agencies. Government and church officials were also sampled and interviewed where necessary.
  • Blaming the Environment: Ethnic Violence and the Political Economy of Displacement in Kenya
    Kagwanja, Peter (Moi University. Center for Refugee Studies, 2002)
    Within the context of historical and political economy, this paper examines the link between environmental stress and the contemporary problems of ethnic violence and forced migrations, specifically internal displacement in Kenya. It examines the various theoretical links to political and ethnic persecution which cause displacement and environmental stress. Examining the historical antecedents of the phenomenon of displacement in Kenya, the paper argues that environmental stress per se cannot generate violence and displacement. Instead, over the years natural catastrophes and environmental degradation have created fertile grounds to justify violence. Internal displacement is essentially a creation of war, persecution, violence and human rights violations. The paper concludes that the healing process, beyond violence and displacement, must incorporate both the human made causes of displacement and environmental problems.