link to Prof. Stein's home page
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 link to paper: The Refugee Experience

a paper presented at the 1990 meeting of the
American Anthropolical Association
New Orleans
28 November 1990

Professor Barry N. Stein
Department of Political Science
Michigan State University

Lance Clark
Refugee Policy Group

revision and update of a report prepared by the REFUGEE POLICY GROUP under a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development grant #. OTR-0090-G-SS-4284-00 [1985]


"Refugee problems demand durable solutions" is the opening statement of the Principles for Action in Developing Countries, adopted by the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in October 1984. Without a durable solution--integration into a community by means of voluntary repatriation, settlement or resettlement--refugees cannot fully establish themselves in a new life as contributing members of their new community. For the past thirty years UNHCR has established planned rural settlements for refugees in Africa as one method of pursuing durable solutions. This effort has not been very successful. Most refugee settlements are unable to achieve or sustain economic self-sufficiency and many refugees are not integrated into their host countries. These failures, particularly the inability to achieve durable solutions for refugees, have contributed to an financial crisis enveloping UNHCR and to a political crisis in Central Africa.

This paper is an updated report of a 1985 study of older refugee settlements in Africa conducted by the Refugee Policy Group through a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The objectives of the study were to investigate:

1. The factors and policies which can contribute to, or hinder, the attainment of self-sufficiency by organized refugee settlements; and,

2. The experience of such settlements after achieving self-sufficiency, particularly in terms of their ability to reach a durable solution. Ideally, such a durable solution would include sustained economic self-sufficiency as well as political and social integration into the host country.

The research indicates that for thirty years there have been and are major difficulties in designing settlements, implementing the assistance program, and in attaining self-sufficiency. In part this troubled record is due to the sheer difficultly of creating a new community amidst volatile refugee movements. However, of more importance are political factors involving the host country's view of refugee settlements which impede the achievement of self-sufficiency, make it difficult to maintain if it is achieved, and which prevent the refugees "political and social integration into the host country."

Table I


21 were closed due to repatriation (with 7 being declared

self-sufficient before being closed)

11 were abandoned

30 were declared self-sufficient (but 21 received renewed aid)

55 were not declared self-sufficient by 1982


117 Total number of settlements established of which

85 were still operating.

The starting point for this analysis was a 1982 UNHCR report "Phasing Out UNHCR Programmes for Local Settlement" (Heidler, 1982) and its accompanying table "UNHCR-Assisted Rural Settlements - Situation at the Beginning of 1982." That table lists 107 settlements in Africa. We have corrected the list by adding nine abandoned and two operating settlements and by subtracting one settlement, which was planned and listed but never established, bringing the total number to 117 settlements.1 In order to be able to deal with a stable sample we have not attempted to study any settlements that were established after 1982.2 At times we mention these additional settlements but they are excluded from the primary analysis.

This study focuses on the organized settlements as they have been the main recipients of international aid provided for refugee settlements. There are two main types of settlements for refugees, organized or planned settlement schemes and spontaneous settlement or self-settlement. As the term suggests, spontaneous settlements3 are unplanned, and they are also largely unassisted. The proportions for each type cannot be exactly known, but a rough estimate would be that half of all African refugees are self-settled (a minority of them in urban areas), that about one-quarter live in organized settlements, and that the remaining one-quarter are in relief or post-relief refugee camps where they are dependent on food rations and other international assistance. (Camps are distinguished from settlements in that there is little or no prospect or attempt for the refugees to achieve self-sufficiency.)

Of the 117 settlements in Table I, the primary focus is on the 30 organized refugee settlements that "were declared self-sufficient (but 21 received renewed aid)" by UNHCR between 1966 and 1982, and which are still in operation. See Table IV for a listing. A secondary focus, also from Table I, is 20 of the 55 settlements listed as "were not declared self-sufficient by 1982." These 20 settlements are listed in Table VI.

The selection of only 20 of the 55 "not declared self-sufficient by 1982" settlements was accomplished by excluding 35 refugee settlements in the Sudan--15 in the east for Ethiopian refugees and 20 in the south for Ugandans. When the decision was made, in 1985, to exclude the Sudanese settlements, we relied on three factors. First, the refugee situation was unstable with massive influxes into both eastern and southern Sudan. (By 1985 the number of settlements had already increased to 71 with 47 in the south and 24 in the east.) Second, the Sudan was experiencing major crises involving the overthrow of the Nimeri Government, the beginning of the civil war, and drought and famine. Lastly, it was felt that the eastern settlements had bleak prospects for self- sufficiency because the Sudanese government was choosing settlement sites against the recommendations of international survey missions.4 Between 1985 and 1990 the political crises and refugee flows in the Sudan have grown worse. All 47 settlements in the southern Sudan were closed in 1988-1989 when the refugees repatriated to Uganda. Although there had been welcome political changes in Uganda the return was spurred by the dismal security situation in the south including attacks on almost all of the settlements. In the eastern Sudan, none of the settlements has achieved self-sufficiency and the climate of acceptance for refugees has deteriorated (Refugee Policy Group, 1989a).

Table II


47 were closed due to repatriation (with

approximately 27 considered self-sufficient [7] or

food self-sufficient [20] before being closed)

11 were abandoned

32 were declared self-sufficient (but 24 received renewed aid)

27 were not declared self-sufficient


117 Total number of settlements established of which

59 are still operating.

Table III

Settlement Self-Sufficiency in the

Sudan and the Rest of Africa in 1982

                             Sudan     Rest of Africa     Total

Not self-sufficient 35 20 55

Self-sufficient but aid renewed 1 20 21

Self-sufficient 1 8 9

---- ---- ----

Number of settlements 37 48 85

With regard to the 50 settlements that constitute our primary and secondary concern (see Table III and Tables IV and VI), in 1982 they included 30 settlements considered self-sufficient--including two in the Sudan, and 20 settlements still dependent on international assistance. In 1990 we find 32 settlements considered self-sufficient, but with 24 of them receiving renewed aid; 3 settlements that may be self-sufficient; 6 are self-reliant and experiencing significantvoluntary repatriation; 3 more are doing well but are still receiving large numbers of refugees; and, six have closed due to voluntary repatriation. Thus of the 50 settlements only 44 are still operating and at least 33 are either dependent or receiving renewed aid. Furthermore, with regard to the original 117 settlements, only 59 are still operating and only 11 of them do not require international aid. (See Table II.)

Problems in Defining Self-Sufficiency

Throughout the paper there is an artificial and arbitrary distinction between self-sufficient and dependent settlements. If at anytime a settlement has been listed or regarded as self-sufficient by UNHCR then it is in the self-sufficient category. For some settlements, e.g. Qala en Nahal in the Sudan, the period of self-sufficiency was either extremely brief or even mistakenly judged. Similarly if a settlement has not been listed as self-sufficient by UNHCR then we continue to treat it as a dependent (on international aid) settlement. Although some settlements may have been mistakenly listed as self-sufficient, most of those interviewed in the course of the study felt that UNHCR tended to be rather late in declaring self-sufficiency, thus underestimating the number of such settlements. Lastly, if a self-sufficient settlement receives any renewed aid, it is listed as requiring renewed aid.

In this study we offer no independent definition of self-sufficiency. We have taken an expedient and practical approach, accepting the definitions of others, primarily UNHCR. If a settlement has been declared self-sufficient we do not question that judgement. As our study covers thirty years of settlement history in a dozen countries we recognize that self-sufficiency in different times and settings may not be comparable.

A practical approach to defining self-sufficiency, one that highlights the relationship between


Host                   Name of       Year: arrive/             Number &
Country              Settlement      self-sufficient               Origin                                 Comments
Burundi Muramba 1962-1969 9,800 Rwanda Report of 1982 assessment team finds the four settlements not fully

Burundi Kayongazi 1962-1969 5,300 Rwanda viable; UNHCR allocates $773,000 for food production & marketing

Burundi Kigamba 1963-1969 11,727 Rwanda cooperatives, vocational training, school repairs, water pipes. $2.5m

Burundi Mugera 1963-1969 18,692 Rwanda for area hospital. 1987 report level comparable to local population.

Tanzania Karagwe 1962-1966 2,500 Rwanda 1987 report of 1,200 moved to new settlement named Burigi, due to

Tanzania Muyenzi 1962-1969 5,000 Rwanda disturbances. Some may have been involved in 1990 Banyarwanda refugee

Tanzania Mwezi 1964-1971 3,000 Rwanda invasion of Rwanda from Uganda. Citizenship discussed 1985, not granted

Uganda Oruchinga 1961-1974 4,750 Rwanda 74,379 in eight settlements [including Kyaka II] in 1989. Major repairs

Uganda Nakivale 1962-1974 8,405 Rwanda due to 1979 Tanzanian invasion; 1982 attack by locals on settlements;

Uganda Kahunge 1963-1974 9,220 Rwanda 1985 fighting to overthrow Obote. Refugees support winner - NRA. 1986

Uganda Ibuga 1964-1974 2,350 Rw & Sudan discussions to grant citizenship produce no results. Property rights

Uganda Rwanwanja 1964-1974 2,820 Rwanda restricted. Reported "for most part better off than nationals."

Uganda Kyaka I 1964-1974 2,230 Rwanda October 1990 refugees in Ugandan Army desert and invade Burundi.

Uganda Kyangwali 1966-1974 9,465 Rwanda Refugee numbers at left are 1971 figures from Holborn (1975).

Zaire Ihula 1961-1970 3,000 Rwanda 14 years of no aid & Kalonge listed as abandoned. Minor aid requests

Zaire Bibwe 1962-1970 1,190 Rwanda at ICARA II for $264,000 for schools and dispensaries not provided

Zaire Kalonge 1962-1967 700 Rwanda before. No evidence of funding or implementation.

Rwanda Mutara 1974-1977 10,000 Burundi $300,000 for 1984 to repair water system, build more schools, equip

health center. Overpopulation, no land. Income-generation aid for

young refugees. Largely self-sufficient but Gov't & refugees can't

maintain established infrastructure.

Tanzania Ulyankulu 1972-1980 26,000 Burundi $27m ICARA II: (includes Mishamo) for primary cooperatives, ag. train

Tanzania Katumba 1973-1978 74,000 Burundi & research, roads, health, water, & education. Additional $9m from

UNHCR. ICARA II cites serious jeopardy to viability. 1988 study finds

serious problems in land use and overcrowding. Neumann (1985) critical

of TCRS "high-standard construction," absence of technical expertise.

Continuing refugee dependency, lack of participation or self-reliance.

Settlement wide gap over locals. Aug. 1990 exile attack on Burundi.

Zaire Mutambala 1976-1979 1,700 Burundi Only ed. scholarships since 1980. Rumored closed by Zaire due to exile

activity v. Burundi.

Sudan Qala en Nahal 1969-1975 34,000 Ethiopia Failed after handover in 1977, complex water and tractor probs.

Marginal w. NGO aid. Villages near food self-sufficiency. Plots too

small for long-term fertility and pop. growth.

Djibouti Mouloud 1979-1980 90 Ethiopia Includes some locals. Extremely high p.c. cost - $1,345 - due to poor

soils, harsh climate, persistent drought.

Botswana Etscha 1968-1975 1,800 Angola All refugees are believed to be citizens.

Zambia Mayukwayukwa 1967-1973 2,200 Angola 1988 construction of new community dev. facilities.

Zambia Meheba 1970-1982 22,000 Angola ICARA II request for $3m for schools, health center, fish ponds. 10-

12,000 refugees move fr border area 1988-90 requiring major construc

Zaire Cataractes 1976-1981 c.100,000 Angola Very odd case, really assisted self-settlement. Food sufficiency since

1981. ICARA II - $4m rebuild roads, $2m community dev., $2.9m

dispensaries. Some on-going aid;long-term refugees are self-sufficient

Zaire Kanyama 1971-1972 750 Zambia Lumpa sect No aid reported.

Tanzania Pangale 1966-1971 700 Zaire Minor ICARA II aid request.

Sudan Rajaf 1970-1977 5,000 Zaire No renewed aid. 1989: possible repat due to security sit. in S. Sudan

individual economic self- support and the broader self-sufficiency needs of a settlement, comes from the Sudan:

a) Dura [food] Self-Sufficiency - An average refugee family can produce a sufficient quantity of dura [basic foodstuffs] off their allocated land to pay for all cost of production and yet have enough left for the family's annual consumption.

b) Family Self-Reliance - Dura self-sufficiency and enough income from other sources to cover the cost for the minimum household requirements (e.g. clothing and bedding, fuel, household utensils, grinding charges).

c) Settlement Self-Reliance -- Family self-reliance plus an overall income surplus is generated which can cover the operating cost for the minimum settlement infrastructure requirements in administration and support services, water supply, education, health care and sanitation. (Cree, 1983)

Clearly the target indicators for having reached self-sufficiency will vary from one place to another. Nonetheless, a definition of settlement self-sufficiency can be seen as including reaching the economic level and general standard of living of the local community and being integrated into the economic life of the area on a sustainable basis. In addition, a settlement should be able to produce sufficient government revenues to allow the government to operate its standard set of services for the residents of the settlement (e.g. health facilities) and to maintain the settlement's infrastructure at a level consistent with those elsewhere in the country. A settlement that routinely required international assistance, or that was experiencing a situation which required external assistance in large amounts, could not be considered self-sufficient.


The ideal view of a refugee settlement, particularly from UNHCR's point of view, consists of two main phases, (a) the land settlement phase to assist refugees settle on the land and become self-supporting, and, (b) the consolidation and integration phase to complete development of settlement infrastructure, promote a sense of community, and to integrate the settlement into the larger social, political and economic life of the host country.

In the land settlement stage a site is selected and prepared, refugees move in and work on their own individual sites and the settlement infrastructure, seeds and tools are provided, as well as food rations until the refugees achieve food self-sufficiency. The expectation is that rations will be needed for 2 to 5 years, but some refugee settlements never end their need for food aid.

The land settlement phase is more than just land, seeds and a hoe. It is the creating of a new rural agricultural community and involves issues of community development, relations with neighbors, levels of service and assistance, problems of administration, legal rights, and self-help.

The consolidation part of the second phase is largely internal and refer to achieving settlement self-reliance and a sense of community. The integration aspect is largely external and involves the settlements relationship to the local population, markets and towns, and to various levels of government from local to national.

No settlement really stands alone. It must depend on local government for many of its services and for upkeep of its infrastructure. To thrive it must also be part of the larger local economy through participation in markets, providing goods and services, and paying taxes and fees.

Integration is directly related to achieving a durable solution. UNHCR seeks to phase out international assistance to refugee settlements and to handover responsibility to the host government. In an ideal case, integration will include citizenship for the refugees (Gasarasi, 1990). "Refugees are aliens, they are 'guests,' they are not voting citizens, and they have little or no political leverage" (Coat, 1978).

The ideal of settlement handover and a phase out of international assistance has not been realized in most instances. The term "handover" is misleading by implying a completeness and formality to the transition which is usually not the case. Only 11 of the 32 self-sufficient settlements have been formally handed over to the host government. For most settlements, "handover" is informal and piecemeal; as each input is completed international assistance is phased out. However, either way, 24 of the 32 settlements received renewed assistance after handover. A more accurate term for self-sufficient settlements would be "handover without phase out."


Many low income host countries, for good reasons, are not prepared to offer durable solutions to integrate refugees into their societies. Choosing to integrate refugees is a far more complex, vital and difficult decision than simply weighing the costs and burdens placed on the international community. Host hesitancy toward integration derives from many factors, including:

--political support for the refugees' cause--particularly independence, secession, or autonomy--which would be weakened by a solution other than repatriation;

--the size of the refugee group, which in absolute or relative terms may be too large for the host to absorb;

--concern that integration would produce a pull factor and encourage more refugees to flee to the host; and

--concerns that the refugees' ethnic, cultural, social, or political background might make them unacceptable to segments of the population. (Stein, 1987)

Furthermore, there are economic factors that complicate the problem. The number of low-income countries has increased from 34 to 42 in just six years. Faced with a lack of development, a debt crisis, and rapidly growing populations whose needs they cannot serve, host countries are in no position to add to their burdens. They worry about being accused of favoring refugees over needy nationals. Refugees can compete economically with nationals. And, it is unreasonable to ask low-income countries to make a financial contribution--either by sharing development assistance from their own scarce resources or by going deeper into debt--for the sake of refugees. Many hosts are twice-shy about integrating refugees because of past experiences with international integration assistance which established services and infrastructure but did not cover the long-term recurrent costs of maintaining refugees.

There has been no agreement between hosts and donors on the issue of additionality. Additionality refers to the request by the low-income host countries that refugee assistance of all types should be over and above--additional to--the normal development assistance they would receive if there were no refugee problem. Donors, however, offer only partial additionality. They indicate that if refugees are incorporated into development projects, such as settlement schemes, they will become potential contributors to their host's development. Therefore a share of the development assistance should also apply to the refugee areas. The hosts do not feel they can afford durable solutions that require them to share scarce development funds or to borrow for aliens.

Lastly, many hosts have solid development reasons for not integrating refugees. Refugees are often concentrated in peripheral areas of the host. Refugee settlements may be the wrong project in the wrong place with the wrong needs, thus skewing the national development plan.


Host hesitancy towards integration of settlement refugees springs from an unresolved dispute regarding responsibility for refugees that divides low-income host countries from UNHCR and the rich donor countries. With rare exceptions--Botswana, Tanzania, Burundi--host countries have not viewed integration as the goal of settlement. They have long and consistently maintained that settlement is temporary and the refugees will eventually repatriate. UNHCR and the donor countries, on the other hand, consistently think in terms of durable solutions, refugee integration into the host country, and the termination of international assistance.

In part, both parties are denying responsibility for caring for the victims. Asylum countries, which bear a tremendous involuntary burden, see themselves as humanitarian hosts to unwanted guests. They want international burden-sharing to ease their load and to compensate them for the great strain placed on their social, physical and economic infrastructures.

Donors accept the idea of burden sharing but not as compensation. They will fund burden sharing as a means to a durable solution. Donors are concerned that burden sharing without an emphasis on durable solutions will lead to open-ended, costly refugee situations. With international burden sharing, host governments might have a reduced sense of responsibility for refugees, actually impeding efforts to find durable solutions.

In 1984 UNHCR's Executive Committee avoided this issue of responsibility when it adopted the Principles for Action in Developing Countries. Although beginning "Refugee problems demand durable solutions" the Principles go on to indicate that voluntary repatriation is the "best option." The Principles continue: "where voluntary return is not immediately feasible, conditions should be created in the country of asylum for temporary settlement" which does "not necessarily imply a commitment to one or another long-term solution."

The practical result is that consolidation and integration of settlements, a handover of responsibility, a phase out of international assistance, the granting of citizenship, and the achievement of a durable solution, would be a voluntary action by the host countries and would go against their long-term announced intention that settlements be temporary.


The UNHCR and donor concern that burden sharing without a durable solution might be expensive has proved to be true. Settlement costs for 1988 (actual--$132 million of $338 million), 1989 (estimated--$160 million of $360 million) and 1990 (estimated--$121 million of $323 million) range from 37 percent to 44 percent of the total UNHCR General Program budget (UNHCR, 1989b). Despite these high costs the settlement program is not very successful. As Tables VI and VII indicate, at best only 15 to 20 percent of the settlements, mostly small ones, achieve lasting self-sufficiency. Temporary settlements are likely to be permanent recipients of international aid.

However, a critical consideration in the hand-over process is the ... capacity of the local government institutions to fully integrate settlements into their ongoing programmes. Due to limited resources, the inability of local institutions to cope with recurrent

operation and maintenance costs, a general lack of self-reliance on the part of refugees and the additional needs required as a result of population growth, further input of resources by the international community has often been necessary after a hand-over has taken place. (UNHCR, 1989b)

Refugee rural settlements first appear as a form of UNHCR assistance in the early 1960s. They developed as a response to large flows of African refugees fleeing from independence and nation-building struggles. "At the end of 1964 UNHCR was faced with a new situation in Africa, characterized by a large influx of rural refugees estimated at about 400,000" (Diegues, 1981). From 1961 to 1982, UNHCR opened 117 refugee settlements in Africa reportedly assisting some 940,000 refugees (Heidler, 1982).

The earliest settlements were for approximately 140,000 Rwandese who fled to Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire and who had little prospect of returning home. The first settlement was Bibwe in Kivu, Zaire opened in October 1961. By 1966 there were 24 Rwandese settlements--nine in Zaire, four in Burundi, three in Tanzania, and eight in Uganda--of which seven were abandoned and seventeen achieved self-sufficiency and are still in existence.

Contemporaneous refugee flows from Zaire, Angola, Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau), Sudan, and Mozambique led to the establishment of approximately a dozen rural settlements in Uganda, Central African Republic, Senegal, Tanzania, Zaire, and Zambia by the mid-sixties. The early refugee settlements had many difficulties getting established and thereby served as the learning ground, often through trial and error, for the inexperienced assisting agencies. Besides the abandonment of seven of the twenty-four Rwandese settlements, three additional settlements--Bambouti for Sudanese in the Central African Republic, Mao for Angolans in Zaire, and Koboko for Sudanese in Uganda--were abandoned5 and four other settlements (for Sudanese and Zairians in Uganda) were considered "not viable" (Heidler, 1982) before they were closed by the repatriation of the refugees. (See Table V.) However, other settlements, primarily in Tanzania, Senegal, and Zambia, did well.

Being the majority, the Rwandese settlements were the main learning ground for UNHCR, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the other international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGO). In the settlement of the Rwandese refugees UNHCR played a more limited role than it does today. At the beginning of the exodus in 1959, and for several years afterward, UNHCR had no branch offices in sub-Sahara Africa. It played a minor or non-existent role in much of the relief phase of assistance. In many cases settlements began without UNHCR involvement and the agency was only invited into the settlements after the host country's resources were strained or other difficulties emerged. Initially, UNHCR knew little of rural African life and the requirements for a successful settlement and did not take a strong stand on site selection, farming techniques and economic viability, and the size and function of the settlements. Neither UNHCR nor the hosts were insistent, or consistent, about appropriate levels of aid, and, with few exceptions, most of the settlements received minimal infrastructures in the form of schools, medical facilities, and other community facilities. Further, UNHCR's active involvement with most of the settlements appeared to end soon after subsistence or food self-sufficiency was achieved, or as soon as the host government was willing to assume responsibility.

The Rwandese Tutsi (Banyarwanda) refugees were a difficult first settlement experience for UNHCR. As an exiled elite they are often described as being acutely aware of the rights and privileges due them. Their sense of superiority frightened and alienated many of their new neighbors, and their negative attitude towards settlement delayed their progress toward self-sufficiency. Many were pastoralists who rejected cultivation, and as militant exiles hoping to retake their homes and power, they rejected the permanence of settlement. The refugees' view of their exile as temporary was often shared by the host governments, who, expecting repatriation, gave little thought to site selection (often settlements were in the border area and represented a regrouping of large refugee influxes that had settled spontaneously in the border zone) and saw no reason to invest heavily in infrastructure for temporarily resident aliens. Lastly, the militant and violent activities of many of the Tutsi through the Inyenzi guerrillas involved them in dangerous forays into the internal politics of three of their host countries (Holborn, 1975; Gasarasi, 1990).

Part of the legacy of the Rwandese Tutsi can be seen in today's UNHCR and Organization of African Unity (OAU) policies concerning moving refugees away from the border, limiting refugee political activities, and viewing the granting of asylum as a non-hostile action. The legacy shows also in UNHCR's concern about promoting friendly relations with local inhabitants6 and giving due attention to the economic viability of settlements. From this experience, policies emerged on the need to provide infrastructure early in a settlement's life--to indicate permanence and to encourage those refugees who value education and other services to remain at the settlement rather than to settle spontaneously; and, on the administrative pattern for settlements--preferring to work with agencies, usually NGOs, that were able to remain with a settlement project through to its completion rather than only working on the relief stage or settlement stage.

Abandoned Settlements or Major Population Declines

Although almost all of the early (1979 or earlier) settlements were eventually declared self-sufficient, it is well to recall the troubles they experienced along the way. Most of the 32 self-sufficient settlements experienced major difficulties and sharp population declines before stabilizing. Further, another eleven settlements were so troubled that they were abandoned and four others were deemed "not viable" before they were closed due to voluntary repatriation (see Table V).

In Burundi, the settlements of Muramba, Kayongazi, Kigamba, and Mugera all experienced large out-migrations in their early years. In fact, some of the settlements lost as much as 90 percent of their settlers due to poor soils, a desire to be reunited with family members located in other asylum countries, resistance to becoming farmers, and a lack of opportunity for refugees from urban areas (Van der Meeren, c.1969).

In Tanzania, Muyenzi declined from 10,000 to 5,000 refugees as settlers fled authoritarian officials (Gasarasi, 1984; Holborn, 1975) and reunited with scattered family members. In the late 1970s, Ulyankulu had its population more than halved as a preventive measure (Betts, 1981) to accommodate inadequate soil and water resources.

In Uganda, several settlements had major difficulties, and one was abandoned. In 1965, Kinyara failed and Ibuga had its Rwandese refugee population leave (although they were replaced by Sudanese refugees) because of a lack of water and community facilities. Oruchinga in 1964 had 12,000 refugees but land for only 5,000, and Nakivale peaked at about 30,000 before stabilizing at less then 20,000 settlers. Both settlements were overcrowded because they were near the border and authorities kept sending newly arrived refugees to them. Eventually their excess populations were transferred to new settlements in the north. Nakapiripirit, Onigo, Acholpi, and Agago for Sudanese and Zairian refugees were deemed "not viable" before they closed due to voluntary repatriation.

In Zaire, six settlements--Kakobo, Mamba, Rambo, Lemera, Mulenge, and Tshaminunu--were abandoned in the mid 1960s when they became involved with the Congo rebellions and the host government ordered that they be closed. Another settlement, Kalonge, was initially thought to have been abandoned for the same reason but survived at about one-third of its former size. Two other settlements, Bibwe and Ihula, were attacked by local residents but survived. However, their combined population declined from 13,000 to 5,000 refugees. Lastly, Kanyama was planned for 10,000 Lumpa refugees but only received 750 as most decided at the last minute to repatriate to Zambia.

In the Sudan, Qala en Nahal virtually failed immediately after handover due to overly complex and highly capitalized designs for provision of water and of tractor services which did not have the support of the local government (Rogge, 1985).

Lastly, in Zambia, two settlements, Lwatembo and Mayukwayukwa, were begun without soil surveys. Lwatembo eventually was abandoned, and Mayukwayukwa proved viable only after two-thirds of its population was transferred to Meheba. Key Obstacles to Attaining Self-Sufficiency

The history of the older refugee settlements in Africa indicates a number of factors which can be major obstacles to the attainment of self-sufficiency by a refugee settlement. While the following discussion is based primarily on the experience of the older settlements, written and interview information on more recent settlements indicates that these points have considerable validity for newer settlements as well.

a. Site Selection

Proper site selection is critical for attaining self-sufficiency. The three chief characteristics of a suitable settlement site are good soils, adequate rainfall (or a source of irrigation water), and sufficient drinking water. These are the primary and permanent factors that determine self-sufficiency. All other factors--such as plot size, overcrowding, refugee


1. KINYARA in Uganda for 4,000 Rwandese refugees open 64

closed 69, refugees resettled from Zaire, low

morale, high mortality

2. LWATEMBO in Zambia for Angolans 66-71, no soil survey


4. MAMBA } in Zaire for Rwandese refugees closed mid-60s

5. RAMBO } after the refugees got involved

6. TSHAMINUNU} in the Congo rebellion and the

7. LEMERA } Gov't closed the settlements


9. BAMBOUTI in Central African Republic for 27,000 Sudanese 1962-67

Originally refugees self-settled,

then regrouped by UNHCR.

Settlement had good prospects

but was too close to border.

1967 raid by Sudan killed six

refugee chiefs. Refugees

transferred to M'Boki 125 miles

from border.

10. MAO in Zaire for 5,500 Angolans 1962-63. Refugees had

settled successfully on land

given them by locals and thus

rejected move to planned site.

11. KOBOKO 12,000 Sudanese in Uganda 1962-1966-67. Closed

because too close to border,

involved in violence, and overcrowded.

At first refugees had self-settled


1. Nakapiripirit for 9,000 Sudanese in Uganda; poor soil,

lack of rain because on wrong side of

mountain, and overcrowded beyond planned capacity of 3,000.

2. Onigo for 2,500 Sudanese in Uganda; peaked at 5,050, set

up in 1965, deemed not viable in 1971

due to water problems, drought, and

insufficient agricultural inputs.

Repatriation in 1972.

3. Acholpi for Sudanese in Uganda; 1964 to repatriation in 1972.

Merged in 1969 with Agago [# 4 below].

Not viable in overcrowded condition

in 1971.

4. Agago for Sudanese and Zairians in Uganda; 1966-72. Same

fate as Acholpi [#3 above].

(Sources: Holborn, 1975; Heidler, 1982.)

attitudes, etc.--are secondary. The key attribute of the secondary factors is that they can be changed, improved or overcome if they are a hinderance. Problems with permanent factors can be overcome, if at all, only at prohibitive expense. If good soil, rainfall, and drinking water are available only in limited amounts, then these limits will determine the viable population capacity of the settlement. Although the choice of a settlement site rests with the host government, it is exceptionally important that UNHCR and the international donors take an active interest in the decision (Drucker, 1987). The long-term consequences of a poor site choice, such as in the Sudan (see p. 4 above), can be extremely expensive in monetary terms and in the labor, energy, and hopes invested in trying to make a poor site workable.

As the overwhelming majority of refugee settlements in Africa are based on cultivation--several Sudanese settlements are based on refugees earning wages in nearby towns or as agricultural workers (Rogge, 1985; Kibreab 1990); soil quality is of paramount importance. Marginal soils are especially susceptible to rapid deterioration, so that food harvests of the early years often cannot be maintained without measures to ensure fertility. It may also be necessary to allow for variations in plot sizes to take into account individual variations in the quality of soils on different plots. Into the 1980s many settlements, even major ones, were undertaken without adequate soil surveys. In some, cursory surveys were made that did not uncover all of the important local variation which existed. In others, the expansion of a settlement led into unsurveyed areas.

Although irrigation is an alternative to rain in dry areas. The complexities and difficulties of irrigated farming are well-known and few, if any, settlements based on irrigation are likely to meet their operating costs and maintenance requirements without continuous outside assistance. Drinking water is likely to be the most immediate problem in a new settlement and it must be continuously available for a settlement to function. Treatment of water or pumping from deep


Host      Name of      Year arrive       Number &
Country   Settlement                                 Origin                                  Comments

Angola Cassege 1978 1,050 Zaire 1985: security problems led to abandon all but Mawa. 1986: 13,000

Angola Dongue 1979 1,200 Zaire refugees, down to 9,654 in 1990. Access very difficult. Minor aid, Angola Sta Eulalia 1981 2,850 Zaire mostly self-reliance. Cassege doing well; others at food self-

Angola Cacanda 1981 300 Zaire sufficiency. On-going repatriation program slowed by UNHCR Angola Kitola 1981 1,760 Zaire financial crisis. Most refugees likely to voluntarily repatriate.

Angola Maua 1981 210 Zaire 3,972 repat so far.

Botswana Dukwe II 1980 469 varied Progress hampered by 6 year drought & major fluctuations; peak 4,559 in 1987. Zimbabweans repat. Namibia repat. 1990: 204 Angolans,

190 S. Af. In 1989, 200 Zimbabweans accepted for naturalization.

Burundi Bukemba 1974 5,330 Rwanda Self-sufficient at same level as other Rwandese settlemts

Swaziland Ndzevane 1980 6,500 S. Africa Handover expected in 1984 still not realized due to influx of 7,000 7,000 Mozambique MzB after 1986. Overcrowded. Inadequate managerial skills. Suitable site for new sett identified but not allocated by gov't. 1990: major reorg increased eco self-suff of S. Af. & reduced their dependence on HCR

Tanzania Kigwa 1980 244 varied Rural settlement and transit center for urban Rs. Still getting

transfers and aid in 87-88. Land and ag supplies. Health & ed


Tanzania Mishamo 1978 30,000 Burundi Self-sufficient & handed over in 1985. Still recieving major aid.

Neumann (1985) criticizes TCRS's high standard construction, failure

to end dependency or promote participation or training. Settlement

level higher than locals.

Zaire Kimbianga 1977 8,400 Angola Population estimate varys 40,000 in 1978 to 12,000 in 1984 for the

Zaire Lundu-Matende 1977 10,000 Angola three settlements. Unclear; may be self-sufficient since 84: at Zaire Mfuki 1978 8,600 Angola level of local population but need maintenance aid. Income-gen and coop aid planned in 86, minor ed ass't in 88. May be some VR to Cabinda in 89

Zaire Adobia 1980 45,000 Uganda 45,000 in six settlements in 1982. Lack arable land, overcrowded w.

Zaire Popo 1980 Uganda new arrivals. Rapidly declining pop in mid-80s due to spontaneous

Zaire Adranga (Tole) 1980 Uganda repat. 17,000 by 1985. Organized repat leads to closing of

Zaire Biringi 1981 Uganda settlements in 88-89.

Zaire Lanza 1981 Uganda

Zaire Irumu 1981 Uganda

wells can be expensive and the recurring costs may require repeated external assistance. Problems with the repair and maintenance of water systems have been a frequent cause of renewed aid to settlements after hand over. The availability of drinking water has limited the size of several settlements, and access to water has repeatedly been a point of conflict between refugees and local residents, but only Qala en Nahal appears to have had its viability threatened by a lack of drinking water.

b. Political Difficulties

While African nations have often been generous in providing asylum to refugees, the record of the older settlements shows numerous cases of severe difficulties caused by political involvements. Many refugee settlements, particularly the Rwandese, got embroiled in the ethnic politics of their host country with severe consequences if they backed the wrong side. Other settlements located close to the border have supported

guerrilla activities7 or been the targets of cross-border attacks and diplomatic pressures on their host. Involvement in local or international politics was the major cause for the abandonment of eight settlements in Zaire, Uganda, and the Central African Republic, and five settlements in Angola were vacated in 1985 due to their host's security situation (see Table V). Forty-seven Ugandan settlements in southern Sudan closed after being attacked. See footnote 6 regarding Rwandese refugees in Uganda. Mutambala in Zaire is rumored closed due to exile political activity. "In May, Tanzania deported some 5,000 Burundian Hutu refugees.... Burundian exiles attacked their home country from Tanzania last August" (Africa Confidential, 1990b).

c. Refugee Attitudes

Many settlements in their early years experienced refugee resistance to any activities which might imply that they were putting down roots in the new land, rather than planning to return home. This was especially pronounced in the case of Rwandese Tutsi's, many of whom continue to seek to forcibly regain control of Rwanda. "Rwandese refugees' early attitude ... opposed anything that even remotely suggested possible permanency" (Gasarasi, 1990). The Rwandese refugees also experienced difficulties in changing from being primarily pastoralist to becoming farmers, which many viewed as a lower status occupation.

Refugee resistance to putting down roots is often matched by the host country's insistence that the refugees will eventually repatriate (Kibreab, 1989; Gasarasi, 1990). Very few settlement refugees have been granted citizenship by their host. As a result, refugee status passes to new generations.

d. Overcrowding

Once a settlement has opened there is a great temptation to continue to send newly arrived refugees (or spontaneously settled refugees who have been rounded up by the host government) to the site. Ndzevane in Swaziland and Meheba in Zambia recently doubled in size to accommodate new arrivals. The plan may be to expand the settlement, or to use it as a transit center or holding camp, while planning an additional settlement or hoping for repatriation. The government is often reluctant to accept the need for additional settlements, feels constrained by lack of staff resources, or is disinclined to go through the search and negotiations required to provide another settlement site.

Overcrowding can be a sign of poor planning, unrealistic beliefs about the settlement's viable size or ability to expand, a failure to think clearly about a site's functions, or a lack of other options. Sharp reductions in size may be needed to bring available resources, which often were not surveyed in advance, into balance with the number of refugees. This process could continue over many years if inadequate provision has been made for maintenance of soil fertility which would lower a settlement's carrying capacity over time. Population declines may be needed to enhance a settlement's ultimate viability.

e. Agricultural Programs and Policies

Agriculture is the cornerstone of most refugee settlements. In addition to meeting the food needs of the residents, achieving an adequate agricultural income is vital to the development of refugee livelihood. The sale of crops is a source of cash on which other activities and employment depend. Many of the agriculture-related problems of refugee settlements are connected with larger African problems; Africa is the only continent to suffer declines in per capita agricultural production over the past two decades (World Bank, 1981, 1989; Eicher, 1986).

The chief problems noted were (a) plot sizes which were too small to allow for more than mere subsistence farming (which would thus eliminate any economic locomotive effect of agriculture in stimulating the total settlement economy) and for necessary conservation measures, and (b) efforts to coerce refugees into communal farming, which produced considerable resistance and minimal crop yields when compared to families farming their own plots.

f. Other factors

A number of other factors appeared to cause problems in attaining self-sufficiency, but were either less powerful, or were only noted as critical in a few instances. One was authoritarian administrators who left little room for refugee input or participation. Another was overly complex technologies which could not be sustained without continued outside assistance.

One of these factors has been the lack of refugee participation in determining the priority needs which assistance programs are to address, and of refugee input into the design and implementation of such programs. This often reflects an attitude by some host government officials that refugees are guests who should not control affairs which occur in the host country. However, even NGOs which advocate refugee participation on paper often fall short of this ideal in practice. "After years of TCRS (Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service) guidance, refugee settlers have not realistically perceived what their responsible role should be in the post-handover phase" (Neumann, 1985).


Because host countries do not assume responsibility for refugees, treat the settlements as temporary, and do not grant citizenship to most refugees, it is inevitable that "handover" of refugee settlements will not lead to the phase-out of international assistance.

In many cases, renewed post-handover aid is of a relativelyminor scale, and is not requested until a long time has passed--twenty-five years in one case. Much of this renewed aid, category II of Table VII, is for repairs and upkeep that are needed in any community as it ages. The intention of handover is that such expenses ought to become the responsibility of the host society. Our attention is drawn to this renewed aid not so much by the nature of the assistance, but by who is paying the bills. If they were paid by the host out of taxes and fees the settlement would be judged to have lasting self-sufficiency.

More significant are those instances in which renewed aid is given for reasons related to the design and functioning of the settlement itself. This may be a factor for the five settlements receiving substantial post-handover aid aimed at improving or maintaining their economic viability (category III). In many of these settlements, as indicated in the case histories in the Appendix to the full report (Stein and Clark 1985), design and implementation problems surfaced prior to or just after the withdrawal of international aid.

In the establishment of the first three Rwandese settlements in Burundi--Muramba, Kayongazi, and Kigamba--"no strong basis for long-term settlement had been laid" and a


I- No Renewed Aid

Etscha, Botswana 1,800 Angola

Moulard, Djibouti 90 Ethiopia

Kanyama, Zaire 750 Zambia

Mutambala, Zaire 1,700 Burundi rumored closed by Gov't due exile activity against Burundi

Rajaf, Sudan 5,000 Zaire 1989: possibly repatriating due to security situation in S. Sudan

Karagwe, Tanzania 2,500 }Rwanda 1987 report of 1,200 moved to new settlement named Burigi, due to disturbances.

Muyenzi, Tanzania 5,000 } " Some may have been involved in 1990 Banyarwanda refugee invasion of Rwanda from

Mwezi, Tanzania 3,000 } " Uganda. Citizenship discussed in 1985, not granted.

II- Minor Renewed Aid to Provide New Facilities or Repair Old Ones

Muramba, Burundi 9,800 }Rwanda 1982 report finds four settlements not fully viable. 1987 report finds at

Kayongazi, Burundi 5,300 } " level comparable to local population. Aid to water supply, hospital, handi-

Kigamba, Burundi 11,727 } " crafts, agricultural implements.

Mugera, Burundi 18,692 } "

Bukema, Burundi 5,330 } "

Mutara, Rwanda 10,000 Burundi Overpopulation, no land. Income-generation aid for young refugees. Largely self-

sufficient but Gov't & refugees can't maintain established infrastructure.

Pangale, Tanzania 700 Zaire } For all 4 settlements,

Bibwe, Zaire 3,000 Rwanda } minor aid requests

Ihula, Zaire 1,190 " } at ICARA II. No evidence of

Kalonge, Zaire 700 " } funding or implementation.

Mayukwayukwa, Zambia 2,200 Angola 1988 construction of new community dev. structures.

III- Major Renewed Aid to Improve or Maintain Economic Viability

Ulyankulu, Tanzania 26,000 }Burundi ICARA II cites serious jeopardy to viability. 1988 study finds serious problems in Katumba, Tanzania 74,000 } " land use and overcrowding. Neumann (1985) criticizes TCRS "high-standard construc-

Mishamo, Tanzania 30,000 } " tion," absence of technical expertise. Continuing refugee dependency, lack of participation or self-reliance. Settlement wide gap over locals. 1990 exile attack on Burundi.

Cataractes, Zaire 100,000 Angola Odd case, really self-settled, ongoing aid, longer-term refugees are self-suff.

Meheba, Zambia 22,000 Angola 10-12,000 refugees moved from border 1988-90 requires major construction.

IV- Substantial Aid to Restore Settlement to Full Functioning

Qala en Nahal, Sudan 30,000 Ethiopia Failed after handover in 1977, complex water and tractor probs. Marginal w. NGO aid. Villages near food self-sufficiency.

Oruchinga, Uganda 4,750 Rwanda 74,379 in eight settlements [including Kyaka II] in 1989. Major repairs due to

Nakivale, Uganda 8,405 " 1979 Tanzanian invasion; 1982 attack by locals on settlements; 1985 fighting to

Kahunge, Uganda 9,220 " overthrow Obote. Refugees support winner - NRA. 1986 discussions to grant

Ibuga, Uganda 2,350 " citizenship produce no results. Property rights restricted. Reported "for most

Rwanwanja, Uganda 2,820 " part better off than nationals." October 1990 refugees in Ugandan Army desert and

Kyaka I, Uganda 2,230 " invade Burundi.

Kyangwali, Uganda 9,465 "


1- We have not been able to find clear evidence of renewed aid to eight settlements, but would not rule out the possibility that some minor aid may have been provided to one or another of them at some time in the past.

Sources: Holborn, 1975; Heidler, 1982; UNHCR, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990; Mebtouche et al., 1986; Hagenbuchle, 1985; Neumann, 1985.

subsequent International Labour Organization project to promote economic viability "was not able to make clear headway in this direction" (Holborn, 1975). Qala en Nahal's numerous major troubles shortly after phase out were clearly related to its overly ambitious, over-capitalized, and too complex design (Rogge, 1985). Ulyankulu and Katumba requested major renewed aid for facilities and services (UN, 1984b), some of which were supposed to have been in place before handover and which were the subject of criticism by viability missions during that period (Betts, 1981). Although much of the aid to these settlements can be seen as preventative measures, in some cases the aid can be seen as substantial enough to call into question the self-sufficiency of the settlements. However, with the exception of Qala en Nahal whose economic viability appears questionable, these large settlements do not appear to be in a situation of lapsed self-sufficiency so much as one of extended repair and maintenance funded from international assistance. Again, this situation reflect a less than complete transfer of responsibility to the host government.

The aid for the seven Rwandese settlements in Uganda (category IV) has not been due to any failure of planning, implementation or maintenance. Rather, it is due to external factors. These settlements were severely damaged in the 1979 Tanzanian invasion,8 then they were attacked bythe local populace as part of violence against the Banyarwanda people of southwest Uganda (Winter, 1983), and they were further damaged in the 1985 fighting that brought the National Resistance Army Government to power. Major assistance has been required to repair damage to these settlements, and to take care of the new influx of Banyarwanda people into them. Many of these new residents are refugees formerly spontaneously settled outside of the official settlements.

In some cases, renewed aid has less to do with the state of affairs in the settlement than it does with other factors--the poor conditions of the host economy, or its attitudes towards integrating refugees, or its relationship with UNHCR and international donors. For example, in 1982 in Burundi, a program costing $773,000 for a variety of projects--cooperatives, workshops, vocational training centers, school repairs, and water pipes--was begun for the four settlements. The amount of money is relatively small when one considers the settlements contain 45,000 refugees, are over twenty years old, and have been self-sufficient since 1969. The impression obtained during field visits to Burundi was that for many years these settlements had been successful in economic terms, but were experiencing resentment by nationals. Many higher status persons especially were said to resent the Rwandese refugees as competitors for the better positions in the country. This resentment, which is said to be an important factor in the ending of the earlier offer of citizenship to the refugees (Clark, 1985), may explain why the government is seeking renewed external aid as much as any compelling problems within the settlements.


After handover, many if not most of the settlements experienced difficulties in maintaining their infrastructure and services and there was a consequent decline in physical assets and services. In terms of physical equipment, for any machinery such as vehicles, tractors, or water pumps; a lack of trained mechanics, of hard currency, and of mechanisms for obtaining fuel and spare parts, as well as an attitude of inattentiveness to the maintenance of public property, all contribute to their disrepair. Similar factors shorten the life expectancy of buildings9 used as schools, clinics, or other community facilities. Additionally, there were numerous reports of physical assets such as school furniture, vehicles or tractors being removed from settlements or being converted to other uses--schools being used as courthouses or personal dwellings--by powerful officials or units of local government (Gasarasi, 1984). Taken together, these factors indicate that those settlements whose future depends heavily on mechanized farming, or on maintenance of roads through the use of heavy machinery, are likely to have serious problems which may require renewed aid. Further, it was rare to find examples of drinking water systems using pumps which were still functioning long after handover. In many instances the refugees had reverted to taking their water from local streams, with all the predictable health problems.

Serious problems are also experienced with the durability of innovative programs, which are not part of the standard set of services provided by the host government, undertaken before handover, particularly at the many smaller settlements. Literacy programs, women's groups, day-care centers, and agricultural field research and extension services seem to have markedly declined or ended soon after handover. In a number of cases, refugees reported that many of these programs were desirable and had been effective when in operation, but simply could not be sustained after handover, primarily because of lack of staff. Many felt that such programs were less critical once the settlement was on its feet than in its early years. Day-care programs are a good example of this kind of program. Most women interviewed felt that they were of great help in the first few years when land clearing and preparation were difficult for women (who often out-numbered men in the settlement) to undertake, but were less needed later. The idea that such innovative programs would be carried on by the refugees on a self-help basis seems to have been unrealistic in most cases.

Services such as refugee health care and education seem to have declined to a level comparable to other parts of the host country. Because of their extensive, even life-threatening health problems refugee settlements in their early years often receive a high level of health care in order to save lives and to restore the refugees to a productive condition. (This higher level of health care is often a major source of resentment towards refugees on the part of local citizens, albeit much ameliorated when such citizens are included as recipients of the service themselves). Post-handover, settlement health care facilities are limited by the same problems which confront the host country in general. Drugs and equipment are in short supply, as are trained, experienced staff.10 This problem is eased somewhat when refugee health workers have been trained before handover.

Primary education for refugees is an area where the host country government is heavily involved prior to handover, and any subsequent declines appear to be mostly related to wear and tear on buildings, and to country-wide problems of lack of furniture, books, and other teaching materials. As with health care staff, host country governments generally appear to be providing teachers in numbers, and of a quality comparable to elsewhere in the country.

In general, host governments have been meeting the staffing and supply needs of the settlements at a level comparable to elsewhere in rural sections of the country. What they have not done as extensively is to assist in the repair and maintenance of settlement infrastructures; although, even in this area it is not clear to what extent the settlements are disadvantaged or are sharing in a general state of disrepair. This tentative conclusion is based mainly on the experience of post-handover settlements in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi--countries which have had especially good records in terms of accepting refugees. One might be less optimistic if there were more information available regarding post-handover settlements in places such as Uganda and Zaire where refugees have experienced major integration problems.

Does the Role of Various Inputs Change Over Time?

What are the implications of the preceding information for consideration of the quantity and type of inputs that should be

provided to a settlement before and after handover?

One suggestion is that the importance of various inputs may change as the settlement ages. The examples in our study suggest that services such as education, health, and safe water supplies are very important in the early years of a settlement. Refugees are initially ambivalent about a settlement, often with dreams of returning home. Education holds a high value for many of them, and may help persuade them to remain in the settlement. Health facilities may be especially necessary to restore a debilitated exile community to a productive level. Agricultural services and extension can help convert the many non-farmers into cultivators and assist experienced farmers to adapt to new crops, climate, and conditions. However, with the passage of time, the decline or absence of these services becomes more tolerable because they have already performed a large part of their function. The reaction of the refugees to the decline of certain services and facilities also appears to change over time. Initially, making comparisons based on clear memories of better services at home, the refugees are dissatisfied by the decline. After some years this view seems to moderate. Most refugees interviewed in the course of this study now compare their situation to that of the host country citizens and appear in most cases to find it satisfactory.

Pre-Handover Inputs and Economic Self-Sufficiency

The impact of the kinds of post-handover declines described earlier appears to have a minimal effect on the economic self-sufficiency of a settlement. A tentative hypothesis for this is that the majority of expenditures for inputs before handover may often go for items that are only very indirectly related to the attainment of economic self-sufficiency, if at

all.11 A preliminary review of the pattern of expenditures for settlements in eastern Sudan, for example, indicated that administrative costs and expenditures for infrastructure such as education and health services far out-weighed spending for agriculture, income-generating activities, and other programs targeted on economic self-sufficiency. Most of those interviewed in the course of this study, including many UNHCR, host country government, and implementing agency staff, felt that this might be true regarding the majority of refugee settlements.

The standards for inputs for refugee settlement appear to have changed since the early 1960s, with a tendency towards becoming more complex and costly. The frequently stated maxim that "the level of refugee assistance should not exceed that available to the local host population" has often been changed in more recent settlements to read "not greatly exceed".

A number of observers noted what they feel is a reversal of the position of many host governments at this point. The tendency in earlier years had been to restrict inputs in order to avoid local resentment of the refugees and to ensure that the government would be able to operate the infrastructure with the resources that were likely to be available to it. More recently, a number of governments have sought to raise these levels significantly. Part of the reason may be the desire of the host government to assist the local population via international refugee assistance. "That host governments would be well-advised to view an influx of refugees as an opportunity, rather than as a problem" (Harrell-Bond, 1985). Host governments have become more aware of the possible spill-over affects of the general operating principle of UNHCR that services for the refugees should be made available to the local population as well. One result is that they may now advocate a level which is perceived by the local population as a step up for its own services. It is also thought that refugee settlements may bring in new resources, including the skills of the refugees, beyond those normally available to the government which may help accelerate the development process in the area around the settlement.

In some places, such as Tanzania, refugee settlements have become showplaces for the government. Government development plans may set target standards that are simply out of realm of possibility for most of the country, especially in these times of economic downturn for most of sub-Sahara Africa. Refugee programs often do not have the same limitations on funding which development programs do, and may therefore end up being held to these higher standards in spite of their being in existence almost nowhere else in the country.

Most refugee settlements which we were able to study seem to have stabilized in economic terms at a point equal to, or often above that of the local population (Clark, 1985). The importance of the kinds of inputs which go into a settlement before handover may be greater in terms of giving the refugees a sense of community and in generating enthusiasm for remaining in the settlement than in making the settlement economically more viable. Economic viability may in fact be more determined by the energy and commitment of the refugees, by site selection, and by key policy decisions about such things as land ownership and plot size than by inputs such as schools and health posts, as long as these are provided at some minimal level.

Varieties of Renewed Aid and Responsibility for the Refugees

Handover marks an important point in the transfer of responsibility for the refugees from the international system to the host country government. As noted above, page 12, hosts do not consider handover to mean an end to international responsibility for the refugees. However, host governments vary greatly regarding the degree of responsibility they assume. An indication of how extensive this transfer has been can be seen by looking at what types of post-handover aid the host government is providing versus that provided by the international system. For discussion purposes, we note six types of post-handover assistance:

1. Assistance to a settlement which has been severely damaged by a man-made or natural disaster.

2. Repairs and maintenance to the settlement.

3. Assistance to deal with population growth in the settlement.

4. Installation of inputs which originally were not put in the settlement but which are found in other settlements.

5. Development-oriented assistance to the settlement region which is meant to alleviate the burden which refugees represent for the host country.

6. Assistance to improve the economic viability of a settlement.

With all of the above categories of assistance and responsibility, one needs to keep principles separate from the real world. It is all well and good to indicate that a host government ought to bear full responsibility for the welfare of refugees in a particular situation. However, if a government declines to take such action there is little choice for international refugee agencies other than to step in and provide aid. The starting point in humanitarian assistance to refugees is "the feeling of most people that refugees usually find themselves in a very disadvantage condition through no fault of their own and that they should therefore be helped to overcome their handicap so they can start a new life on equal footing with others" (Heidler, 1982). Thus, if a disaster strikes an area that includes refugees but the government only aids its nationals--as happened in Uganda after the 1979 Tanzanian invasion; then UNHCR needs to return to aid refugees again handicapped through no fault of their own.

Repairs and operating costs of a settlement ought to be assumed by the host government in all but the most exceptional cases. It is assumed that the government should provide services to refugee settlements comparable to services provided elsewhere as long as they are receiving tax and fee revenues from refugees comparable to those received from local citizens. However, more attention may need to be given to insuring that the financial contributions of the refugees are recognized, that a fair share of these funds are applied to their needs, and that the settlements is integrated into the regular budgeting and administrative processes of the host country. As noted above, most settlements experience some decline in services and infrastructure after handover, partially because government inputs for recurrent costs and maintenance and repairs, although at a level comparable to the rest of the country, may not be sufficient to maintain international inputs at pre-handover levels.

Assistance to deal with population growth in a settlement after handover, is very similar to providing repairs and maintenance to a settlement. Population growth is as normal and constant as leaking pipes or broken furniture. If the international community has an obligation to repeatedly return to a settlement to expand its facilities because of a growing population, the obligation would be endless. As the host government provides for its own expanding population, it ought to provide comparable facilities for the refugee settlements. One might soften this view somewhat be noting that refugee settlements are not always demographically configured along normal lines. Settlements often have a disproportionately young population with a high reproductive potential. One-time assistance to address this anomaly--family planning programs, expanded social facilities, etc.--thus might be appropriate.

Development-oriented assistance meant to alleviate the burden which refugees represent for the region and the host country is a subject that has received a great deal of attention in the context of ICARA II and UNHCR's discussions on Refugees and Development (Stein, 1990). African host countries feel that donor countries and UNHCR are not sufficiently aware of the burden which refugees place on their environment, economy, local government infrastructure, and political community. They want more of this burden to be borne by the international community, rather than by the host countries. At ICARA II the international community accepted much of this argument and agreed that:

as a result of the adverse impact on the national economies of the African countries concerned, most of which belong to the group of the least developed countries, there is need to provide these countries with the required assistance to strengthen their social and economic infrastructure so as to enable them to cope with the burden of dealing with large numbers of refugees (UN, 1984c).

As noted in Table IV, some $50 million in aid for the older settlements was requested for education and training, water supply, agriculture and fisheries, health care and cooperatives, roads and bridges, and other assistance.

Lastly, renewed assistance to improve the economic viability of a settlement, generally ought to be provided by UNHCR, but with caution. Economic viability is the heart of a settlement, and there may be little choice if one must choose between threatened hardship or even abandonment versus continued existence. Of course the choices may not be so extreme, and the aid may only be labelled "preventive assistance" as with the requests for aid to the three large Tanzanian settlements. However, under most circumstances, it will be difficult to neglect a settlement's economic viability. Renewed aid may be given because of built-in weaknesses in the original planning or implementation of the settlement or due to changing national conditions or policies in the host country.

Built-in weaknesses in the original planning or implementation of a settlement have been quite numerous as much of this study points out. In the many cases where there were flaws in the original provision of international assistance, there would seem to be an obligation to renew aid and set thing right.

A more difficult situation exists when the decline in economic viability is due to changing national conditions or policies in the host country. In many parts of Africa, national economic conditions have declined severely due to a combination of ill-advised national policies, natural calamities, and endemic turmoil (World Bank, 1981, 1989). Such a general decline will often include refugee settlements. Another situation exists when specific national policies have an adverse impact on settlements.

[In Tanzania] in the early seventies well-functioning rural cooperatives were abandoned in favour of regional trading parastatals in accordance with government policy. These organizations, however, proved less capable than expected of assuming the roles of the former cooperatives (and, in the opinion of many observers, actually hindered rural economic growth). (UNHCR, 1984d)

In such cases, the projects may have been well designed, but they are endangered by host government actions or omissions. There is a danger that renewed international aid will not only encourage perpetual dependence but will signal to national authorities that they are not accountable for mistakes.


It is in the area of political and legal integration where the older settlements have their greatest problems. One finding of the review of these settlements in their pre-handover years was how often different settlements faced serious setbacks, or in some cases were actually abandoned, due to friction with the local population and government. Thus it should not be surprising that integration remains a problem for them today. This record of difficulties between government and refugees ought is an indication of the enormous political burden refugees can place on their hosts. Besides the need to assimilate another ethnic group with all the difficulties of balancing forces that can entail, refugees have frequently been the cause of friction between host and homeland, and even the targets of attacks that strike locals as well as refugees. The 1990 exile invasions of both Rwanda and Burundi demonstrate that such problems continue.

It is often assumed that refugees will have few social problems because they are among their ethnic kin. "Traditional hospitality, it is suggested, especially between ethnic kin, solves the problem" (UNHCR, 1979d). This assumption ignore the great ethnic diversity of Africa and neglects the fact that most organized settlements have been deliberately removed from the border areas where ethnic kin might most reasonably be expected to be located. Only nine of the 32 settlements--five in Burundi, and one each in Rwanda, Zaire, Zambia, and Botswana--are clearly located amongst ethnic kin. This does not necessarily mean that they will have an easier path to integration; families can squabble and those without kin may not be welcomed.

A major indicator of integration difficulties is the rarity of offering citizenship to refugees. Our review indicates that this is happening only in very exceptional cases. Even in the most widely cited case of successful integration, that of Tanzania, the field visit noted that only a small percentage of the refugees from Rwanda have actually received citizenship (Gasarasi, 1990), and virtually none of those from Burundi. This was despite the central government's public offer of citizenship to these refugees in 1980. The lack of citizenship was only discovered as a result of the threatened expulsion by the Tanzanian government of refugees who had arrived from Uganda in 1982 (Hagenbuchle, 1985). When UNHCR staff interviewed those persons whom the local officials had rounded up, they discovered very few recent arrivals. Rather the great majority were refugees from the 1960s or even earlier who had never received their citizenship papers, in spite of repeated attempts to do so. On the other hand, for those who have gotten their papers, Gasarasi (1990) concludes "that the prospects for further integration of the naturalized Rwandese are good."

Elsewhere in Africa, Botswana has granted citizenship to Angolan and Zimbabwean refugees. A limited number of Tutsi refugees in Burundi received citizenship some years ago (although the Burundi government soon closed this door and has shown little desire to reopen it in the foreseeable future). These few cases represent a small fraction of the refugees in African settlements.

An important basis for the calls for renewed post-handover aid is the fact that the settlers remain refugees. However, more study (Refugee Policy Group, 1989a, 1989b, 1989c) needs to be given to the political and legal problems of longer term refugees which surfaced in the course of this study such as: the apparent lack of refugee input into how their taxes, etc. are spent; their ability to hold local office or even vote for positions such as village chairman; possible restrictions on travel and trade; limitations on the number of refugees which can be employed in particular types of work (even by refugee assistance agencies); land ownership and tenure; access to credit, education, markets, health services; and their vulnerability to being pushed out of the country (as happened to some Rwandese refugees in Uganda in 1982). One report (New York Times, 1990) indicated: "The Tutsi refugees decided to invade [Burundi] when the Uganda Parliament considered legislation to restrict the rights of foreigners to own property."

Unfortunately, it is likely that integration problems will increase, not decrease, in sub-Sahara Africa in the foreseeable future, and thus make prospects for assimilation poorer. Two key factors are likely to be the poor economic situation of most of the host countries, and increased pressure on the remaining uncultivated land resulting from population explosions. A decreasing pie is likely to make the prospect of sharing with newcomers particularly unattractive.


A major conclusion of the international meetings convened regarding refugee aid and development and of the two ICARA meetings, was that refugee assistance itself should be more development oriented (Clark and Stein, 1985). In particular, it was suggested that refugee assistance should help promote the development of the area where refugees live (Stein, 1990).

In considering whether refugee assistance itself provided development benefits for the host population near the older settlements, it is important to remember that most of thesettlements were created with the objective of having the refugees attain the level of development of the local population, not a higher one. Thus, while a settlement's services and facilities might have made the area more attractive, they necessarily had a limited effect on raising the overall development level of the area.

A number of settlements were set up with the conscious intention of opening up relatively unpopulated areas for further development. This was especially true for the settlements of Meheba in Zambia and of Ulyankulu, Katumba, Mishamo, and Mwezi in Tanzania. The high productivity of most of these settlements has produced considerable additional crops for sale outside of the settlements and thus has promoted the overall development of the area. However, while the settlements are doing well economically, they have not attracted significant numbers of host country residents to these areas, or significant amounts of new international development assistance (as opposed to aid from refugee assistance sources). Local residents have benefitted from access to the settlement facilities, but the relative remoteness of these sites has meant that such residents are few in numbers.

Rwanda and Burundi, with high population densities, placed the refugee settlements in less populated areas (by local standards) that had not been intensively cultivated beforehand. The settlements were soon followed by influxes of nationals to the area, which was especially heavy in Rwanda. It is doubtful that population pressures would have left the lands so underpopulated for much longer, regardless of whether or not refugee settlements were created. However, as many of the facilities which were originally placed in the area for the refugees have been utilized by the new host country settlers as well, refugee assistance may have been a factor in facilitating and accelerating the further development of the area.

The clearest case of nationals benefiting from a settlement would be Qala en Nahal in the Sudan. The local residents are described as having seen destitute and unproductive before Qala en Nahal's establishment (Rogge, 1985), and have benefitted enormously from the settlement and its infrastructure. The local population constitute only about 10 percent of the total settlement population but have about half of its cultivated area. They also control almost all of the surrounding pastures, have been favored by local authorities in the allocation of resources, and are producing more than three times the profits of the best refugee farms (Cree, 1983). In Qala en Nahal's case, however, the refugees have achieved only a precarious self-sufficiency.

A number of the older settlements notably in Zaire and Burundi, were involved in what were called zonal development plans; which were not unlike the current proposals for development-oriented assistance. These had very uneven results. Most of the problems encountered seemed to relate to difficulties in managing these complex programs, especially in terms of effectively coordinating the inputs of all of the different entities which were involved.

There are difficulties in using a refugee settlement as the centerpiece of an integrated area development scheme because of the time constraints involved. Area development schemes are often years, even decades, in their planning, negotiation and funding while a refugee settlement proceeds on a faster timetable of weeks, months, or a year. However, it is possible that one effect of the attention now being given to more effectively merging refugee and development assistance will be that higher priority will be given to funding development programs in refugee impacted areas. So far, however, this new development-oriented effort has gotten off to a slow start.


The study made a special effort to look into the situation of settlements after handover, as there is generally little information available about what happens to settlements in the long run. Declines in the level of infrastructure and community facilities were common after handover. In most cases, with Qala en Nahal in the Sudan as the major exception, the declines did not appear to have threatened the settlement's existence, but to have brought the services into balance with those available in the surrounding region. Information from site visits undertaken as part of this study indicates that host governments in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi are maintaining services in the settlements at a level of comparable to that of the surrounding area. The record suggests a lack of confidence in the continued operation of facilities and services at pre-handover levels. The level of inputs into a settlement appear to have risen markedly in the more recent settlements, with host governments generally requesting these higher levels of aid.

Refugees in a number of the post-handover settlements visited as part of this study noted that they have felt virtually ignored by those in the international assistance system. Their concerns were less about the need for further assistance than about questions of protection from abuse of authority by local officials, and about equity issues, such as and having some input into how the money they pay in taxes, fees, etc. is to be used.

Integration into the host country is the major difficulty facing older refugee settlements and their residents. As noted earlier, many settlements were either abandoned or seriously disrupted prior to attaining self-sufficiency by becoming involved in local tribal and political tensions. Further, for many of the more recent settlements, host governments have made it clear that their agreement to allow the creation of the settlement is temporary, even if the refugees have been in the country for many years and have little prospects of being able to return home. Finally, the granting of citizenship to refugees is happening only in a few cases. Even in Tanzania, often cited as the model for such integration, only a small minority of the refugees have received citizenship.

It should also be recognized that the obstacles facing the integration of refugees into the host country are likely to increase, not diminish, in the future. Reasons for this include the continuing decline of host country economies and their swelling populations which are rapidly eliminating the amount of unclaimed arable land on which refugee settlements could be sited.

Even after settlements have been handed over to host governments they refuse to accept responsibility for them. The refugees are not given citizenship or legal status or the right to fully participate in the host society. In some cases host governments have come back to the international community for assistance twenty-five years after the hand-over of a settlement. Complicating the problem with settlements is a lack of standards of success which would allow UNHCR to declare victory and confer responsibility for the refugees on the host government. UNHCR is handicapped in dealing with a sovereign host government. Its primary mission is to protect the refugees and ensure they are granted asylum. Although it funds the refugee settlements its leverage over the host governments is slight; pressure on the host could backfire and lead to withdrawal of even the granting of temporary asylum and settlement. As a result most settlements begin without a clear agreement between the refugees, the government and UNHCR. The legal status of the refugees is not spelled out and thus difficult to protect; few standards are in place to achieve closure of international responsibility for the refugees.

In summary, the older refugee settlements in Africa have generally attained economic self-sufficiency (although experiencing major problems along the way, including the abandonment of a number of settlements) but have fallen short of attaining integration for the refugees. "Many of the lessons of the 1960s ... had been learnt by the early 1970s and were incorporated in refugee settlements" (Chambers, 1979). However, these improvements in the design and administration of future settlements are more than offset by worsening conditions in the overall context in which future settlements are likely to have to operate. This gives little optimism that future settlements will have more success than the older settlements did in attaining integration and a durable solution. For many of the older settlements the lack of integration creates major dangers for the future.


1- Regarding the situation as it existed in 1982 there is no confidence that the figure of 117 settlements is correct. At a certain point it becomes too time consuming to resolve

discrepancies in lists and maps, variations in spellings and names.

2- Since 1982 the total has grown to "more than 200 organized refugee settlements hosting more than one million refugees." "What began as an experiment in Africa has subsequently been taken up in Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama" (UNHCR, 1988b).

3- Spontaneous settlements are often not settlements in the sense of being discrete communities. It is more accurate to speak of refugees settling spontaneously, i.e., mixing in with local communities, who may be ethnic kin, or by clearing relatively unused land in border zones. In some cases, the spontaneously settled refugees may so outnumber the local population or may occupy sufficient contiguous land that they may be thought of as a community.

4- "The settlements of Um Gargur and Karkora are located in marginal [rainfall] areas . . . and it is generally accepted that they cannot become self-sufficient even in dura production. Despite the fact that the settlements . . . were not recommended by a technical mission, their settlements have taken place. Similarly, the settlement of Um Ali also was rejected . . . due to soil type limitations. Nevertheless, the refugees have been settled in the Um Ali settlement" (WFP,1983).

5- The eleventh abandoned settlement was Lwatembo, a somewhat later settlement for Angolans in Zambia, abandoned in 1971.

6- In 1982 the Rwandese refugee settlements in Uganda were attacked by their neighbors and 30,000 refugees fled temporarily back into Rwanda. They returned to Uganda in 1984. In 1984 and 1985 the exiles actively supported the National Resistance Army's (NRA) fight against the Government of Uganda. In 1986 the victorious NRA considered giving citizenship to the refugees (Mebtouche et al., 1986), but did not. In October 1990, Rwandese exiles serving in the Ugandan National Resistance Army deserted and invaded Rwanda (Africa Confidential, 1990a).

7- Refugees may remain close to the border, either in settlements or self-settled, for reasons other than support of guerrilla groups. They want to be near home, slip in to tend fields, visit relatives, gather resources, or a number of other innocent activities.

8- Although the Ugandan Government was prepared to assist its nationals to recover from the invasion it was not willing to assist the refugees and requested international assistance for them (UN, 1981a).

9- "The construction of buildings has been a major preoccupation on refugee settlement projects in Africa. Many have been completed and are being used. Many too have been underutilized or abandoned" (Chambers, 1975).

"The conceptual approach of high-standard construction in settlements does not match at present with the Government's capacity for technical management and the refugees' readiness and voluntary capacity for participation and self-construction" (Neumann, 1985).

10- "...handicaps faced the Mishamo settlement from its inception in 1979--...unavailability of qualified personnel--due to the remoteness of the site" (UN, 1984b).

"Hence the 'surplus' personnel available for administrating refugee settlements is generally limited and is composed of junior, inexperienced, underqualified persons, as well as individuals not considered sufficiently competent to operate in other branches of the civil service" (Rogge, 1985).

"The spirit of the [Refugee Control] Act has predominantly been a disciplining one, and as a result it has in most cases produced authoritarian Settlements Commandants who have often developed antagonistic relations with the refugees" (Gasarasi, 1984).

11- Harrell-Bond (1985) writing about the southern Sudan noted:"Thus refugees must become economically independent. This requires 'planning', but when the planning of refugee settlements is done in isolation by outsiders who lack the benefit of even such basic information as what are the ecological, economic, and social constraints of an area, the results are bound to be problematic."


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