Restricting refugee movement. The political motivations for the Kenyan and Ethiopian encampment policy approached from exclusion theory: The Somali refugee case

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
In 2013, Nairobi became world news when four Al-Shabaab gunmen entered the Westgate shopping mall and killed 67 people. The attack shocked the world, not only because of the numbers of death, but also because of the poor response of the Kenyan Defence Forces. It took three days before the situation was under control. Unfortunately, the Westgate attack in Kenya is not an incident. The attack is part of a series of terrorist attacks that haunted Kenya since its army invaded Somalia in 2011. The density and numbers of attacks in the past three years are comparable to conflict-affected regions. The most recent peak in attacks was at the end of 2014, when 64 people were killed in two attacks near the Somali border. The wave of terrorism has far going consequences. It created fear and anxiety among Kenya citizens and put pressure on the government to address the insecurity. The government’s response has focused on one particular group: refugees. Kenya has a large number of Somali refugees and the government suspects that they are involved in the terror attacks. By taking the refugees back to the camps, the government argues that it addresses the insecurity. This thesis will examine the motivations behind this encampment policy. Is the encampment policy a solution for the terrorism in Kenya, or do other political motivations explain this phenomenon? The link between terrorism and refugees is not unique to Kenya. The literature on migrant detention acknowledges that all kinds of migrants are scapegoated in the post-9/11 era. As a result, migrants are targeted by restrictive policies. The most debated of these policies is migrant detention. This thesis takes the encampment policy as a form of migrant detention. It does not make a legal statement, but compares political motivations for the encampment policies in Kenya and Ethiopia to migrant detention in the West. The comparison between Kenya and Ethiopia is chosen, because both countries deal with an extensive influx of Somali refugees. However, Kenya is heavily affected by terrorism, while Ethiopia is not. Since terrorism is a central element in the migrant detention literature this difference could provide new insights in the motivations for migrant detention. Central in this thesis is the exclusion theory of migrant detention. The exclusion theory suggests that migrant detention excludes the refugees from the local societies. This is done for symbolic reasons, because the scapegoating does not lead to any visible results. The process of exclusion is called ‘the ordering of space’. In the literature, this process is driven by a crisis of state sovereignty and a wish of states to re-emphasise their power. This thesis divides the ordering of space into three separate, but interconnected processes: ‘bordering’, ‘ordering’ and ‘othering’. Thereby it argues that the ordering of space of Somali refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia is not the outcome of a crisis of state sovereignty, but driven by the game of politics. In democratic Kenya, the government is depended on public opinion for its political legitimacy. Thereby the encampment policies are a method to reduce the public pressure on the government that was created by the terror attacks. The underlying motivations and reasons for the encampment policies differ according to the type of the political system. In Kenya, this is the democratic system and in Ethiopia the authoritarian system. Therefore, the Ethiopian government does not depend on the public opinion, but on population control. Thereby encampment policy functions within the security network that ensures political legitimisation. This means that the encampment policies in Kenya and Ethiopia are driven by the preservation and amplification of political legitimacy and not a crisis of state sovereignty.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen