Internal Displacement In Burundi And Somalia: Comparison Of The Institutional Responses



This term paper examines the institutional intervention and responses in managing the problem of internal displacement in Burundi and Somalia. The main focus of the term paper is to compare and contrast the intervention strategies employed in order to identify the specific institutional challenges in terms of the successes and failures peculiar to each of the states under reference. This is instructive to help facilitate future response strategies and develop an action plan for the management of IDPs crisis. This paper also aims at illustrating the need to prioritize economic recovery in Burundi as a requirement for creating a peace dividend and maintaining stability. In addition to this, it underlines the fact that early economic recovery is also of critical importance. In order to situate displacement in Burundi and Somalia within a broader context, it is important to first discuss the global IDP crisis and international responses to it. Two sets of issues in this context are raised: first, the tensions between international action and sovereignty in the context of the emerging international IDP regime, and second, the pitfalls of humanitarian assistance programs in opening the way for the construction of new forms of power relations regarding displaced groups.

One of the world's most acute and growing problems is the increasing number of internally displaced people. This phenomenon is a direct consequence of the spate of internal violent conflict; gross human right violation; endemic situation of famine and drought; the barbarism of xenophobia and genocide; natural and environmental disaster; all of which are re-occurring in quick succession especially in Africa. But this does not necessarily imply that other parts of the world (Europe, Asia and America) are not engulfed in the displacement generating phenomenon. In fact, the 2010 flood in China which left no fewer than 250,000 people displaced; the flooding in Pakistan which seemed intractable; the several earthquakes in the United States; all these are evidences to show that no part of the world is left out. Again, since the end of the cold war, especially in the past two decades, the occurrence of displacement inducing situation has increased in an unprecedented manner. What makes the situation peculiar in Africa is that the entire displacement generating situations are directly or indirectly related to violent conflict. And this again in the final analysis is as a result of the political pervasiveness of the African political elite.

Violent conflicts had caused massive displacement in Burundi and Somalia. But institutional responses at managing this displacement have taken different dimensions and effect. When compared to Somalia, Burundi has recorded a positive effect in terms of managing the crisis of displacement. Burundi and Somalia represent two distinct states where institutional responses (both international and national agencies) in the management of internal displacement have generated a lot of positive and negative effects. Fighting in Burundi has abated since 2000 even though the Burundian government is still grasping with post conflict reconstruction and resettlement. But Somalia is still enmeshed in fighting, such that the question of whether or not Somalia is a failed state is a matter of semantics. Pursued further, the situation in Somalia till this moment raises doubt about the nature and status of the displaced. In fact, the Somalia experience is that of, not just the crisis of displacement, but the impending crisis of statelessness.


The security situation in Burundi improved markedly after the last rebel group in the country laid down its arms at the end of 2008, and no new conflict-induced displacement was reported in 2009 (IDMC, 2010). However, up to 100,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) remain in sites in northern and central Burundi. Most of them, displaced in the 1990s or early 2000s following inter-ethnic rivalry and fighting between the government and rebel groups. This situation generated a lot of IDPs, most of whom, forced out of their homes and displaced within their own country. Many crossed the borders into neighboring states as refugee, but those who could not remained victims of their own social environments. Since the end of the conflict, the Burundian government have tried to resolve the challenges of internal displacement. But as it is always the case, the share numbers and resources required to respond to the challenges have overwhelmed the institutional capacity of the government.

Part of the problem faced is the land distribution. The majority of IDPs do not own their houses and land in the sites, but live on state-owned, private or church-owned property, and this had caused disputes with the original owners. Informal transactions take place but often lead to disputes as the same parcel of land can be sold a number of times without being registered. A comprehensive land law has been drafted which should apply to rural areas (until now regulated by customary law) as well as cities, but as at 2010, it had not been enacted. Since 2006, the UN Peace Building Commission has worked with the Burundian government to support post-conflict recovery, including the recovery of people affected by the country's internal armed conflicts. One promising initiative developed by the Burundian government together with UN agencies and donor governments is the construction of villages where IDPs can resettle, along with landless returnees and other vulnerable people (IDMC, 2010).


In October 2008 a cluster approach was formally introduced in Burundi (OCHA, website, accessed 8 October 2009). The situation in Burundi is a rather complex one: the humanitarian actors are in the phase of leaving Burundi and there is a strong presence of development actors in the country. Moreover, the government had set up its own national framework pertaining humanitarian assistance. The Humanitarian Coordinator proposed to implement a tailored cluster approach, but coordination between the various actors remains extraordinary heavy. There is for instance no overarching Protection Cluster in place. (Communication with NGO (anonymous), October 2009). Furthermore, an ad hoc Integrated Commission for Repatriation and Reintegration which constitutes a UN-Government-Donors strategic forum under the chairmanship of the Minister for National Solidarity, Human Rights, Gender and Reconstruction was set up. "With the establishment of the Integrated Commission the important strategic links between the early recovery and protection objectives towards sustainable solutions have become even more apparent." (BINUB, 28 October 2008,). These early recovery and protection objectives are therefore included both in the UN repatriation and reintegration theme group under the UNHCR and UNDP leadership.


The collapse of the Somali state has its root in a military coup in 1969, led by General Mohamed Said Barre. He installed a dictatorial regime, whose divide and rule policy succeeded in polarizing grievances into the clan-based wars and eventually splintered its own support-base. In 1991, the state collapsed and Barre was overthrown. Thereafter, the country descended into a full-fledge civil war and remained without an effective central government for years. Various warlords fought over the control of key resources, embedded in the capital Mogadishu, port-towns, and the fertile lands between the Juba and Shebelle rivers. As fighting continued into 1993, the UN deployed its largest ever peacekeeping operation (UNOSOM II). It operated without the consent of the parties within the country and ended in fiasco; the UN's seriously misjudgment culminated in the killing of hundreds of Somali civilians and dozens of foreign peacekeepers in Mogadishu

Somalia has not had a functioning government since that of Siad Barre fell in 1991. Local and international efforts aimed at building a stable government have since been unsuccessful. Over 14 peace processes have been conducted to establish a broad based government. However, despite this effort, Somalia remains in 2010 a failed state and one of the most insecure places in the world, with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Tracking displacement in Somalia is particularly difficult as virtually all Somalis have been displaced by violence at least once in their life. In addition, many IDPs are dispersed or living unplanned settlement alongside destitute rural and urban populations rather than in camps.


The major cause of displacement in Burundi and Somalia had been violent conflict. But conflict had since abated in Burundi where as Somalia is still very much enmeshed in civil war. Again, it is also instructive to understand the nature of the conflict that engulfed both states. This would make for proper analysis for the mitigation technique employed to mediate and bring about peace. The Burundian conflict took an ethnocentric dimension. Even though it is generally agreed that the political elite took advantage of the ethnic differences in Burundi, and built reveries on ethnic sentiments, the ethnic differences (though largely created by the political orientation) by itself, fueled the conflict. But Somalia is a homogeneous state with; broadly speaking; the same language, ethnic configuration, religion and historical experience. So conflict in Somalia was by all measure a political reverie. Apart from conflict, the Somali state has also recorded a large number of internal displacements due to drought. In fact, Somalis are traditionally nomads such that many Somalis have developed a coping mechanism to displacement.

Many Somalis have been born and socialized into a situation of displacement. The Burundian national government has been totally involved in the management of IDPs. But the Somali government which was inaugurated four years ago in Nairobi, Kenya, has no base in Mogadishu thereby lacking the capacity to mobilize humanitarian resources. Burundi ratified the Great Lake Pact; signed the Arusha Peace agreement; and ratified the Kampala Convention. All these documents provide both the institutional and legal framework for the protection and assistance of the internally displaced. But Somalia still suffers the fate of being a failed state despite efforts by the international community to bring the crisis in the state to an end.

International humanitarian aids mobilized to assist the displaced had been largely managed effectively by local based NGOs and community organization in both states. In Burundi for instance, apart from the direct intervention of UN agencies such as the UNHCR, the WFP, UNICEF etc, international organization collaborated with local based NGOs for the distribution of relief materials. This has also been the case in Somalia where the local community organizations are largely involved in the management of resources. And this strategy has been very effective in both countries. In fact, most Somalis still live on foreign aids and there seems to be no reason suggesting that this situation will not continue for a long time.
Most aid agencies have discussed suspending operation in parts hit by mounting insecurity and a recent wave of assassination targeting senior local humanitarian workers (Reuters, 22 July2008).

Somalia is among the few countries where the cluster approach has been activated and implemented. Currently, there are seven operational cluster: agriculture and livelihoods; food; education; shelter; health and nutrition; water and sanitation; and protection. The cluster approach was formally adopted in July 2006, its operational implementation in Somalia did not commence in many areas of the south-central until early 2007. This was attributed to problems of access and increasing insecurity in most parts of the country, planning challenges given the unpredictability of the situation, and insufficient and inconsistent field staff presence in southern Punt land and South-Central Somalia. If the security situation improves, a review of staffing will be necessary to ensure that the field presence can achieve proper coordination.

UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, as well as international actors such as the Norwegian Refugee Council, Gedo Health commission, ICRC, etc try and provide much needed assistance in the areas of health care, education, food aid, shelter and sanitation, and protection to IDPs in various location albeit on a limited scale. However, a UNHCR evaluation team found in 2007 that agencies and NGOs were largely operating according to their separate mandates, with limited coordination, only minimal common needs assessments or mutually agreed priorities, varying target regions, and multiple beneficiaries (UNHCR, Sept. 20007).


The absence of lessons learned and applied suggests that in the Somali instance at least, there may be an inverse correlation between the integrity of humanitarian action and the willingness to identify relevant lessons, on the one hand, and the political profile of the conflict on the other. The design and formulation of preventive, remedial and developmental policies and programs for displaced populations, taking into account, wherever possible, the complexities and particularities of each displacement, including viewing them from a gender perspective and giving priority to those in most urgent need, in accordance with the principle of impartiality is the only meaningful way to resolve the problem of displacement.

By avoiding to address the causes and history of displacement, the developmental discourse circumvents issues of core aspects of post conflict peace-building such as reconciliation; justice and accountability are simply untenable. While the African Region has taken initiatives to remedy the situation of IDPs (through the initiative of the AU Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons), it has done so without a public acknowledgment of its responsibility. Re-establishing trust between IDPs and the African state remains an urgent task. The Representative for the Human Rights of IDPs, Walter Klin, recently emphasized that remedies which states "owe to victims of human rights violations are not limited to 'rehabilitation, restitution, compensation and repair' but also include 'satisfaction' (which includes an element of justice, such as full disclosure, apology, and, particularly, imposition of judicial and administrative sanctions on those responsible)."


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