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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

A safe haven for Somalis in Uganda?

A safe haven for Somalis in Uganda?

This briefing examines the emergence of the Somali migration route to Uganda and its significance in the long history of Somali migration in East Africa. It discusses the factors underlying the decision-making processes of Somali refugees in relation to cross-border movement. And it asks whether the Somali flows to Uganda are a short-term trend in response to a deterioration in living conditions and security in Kenya—the main recipient of Somali displaced people since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991—or whether they are part of a larger phenomenon, the formation of a diaspora with a longer time horizon.

The new pattern of mobility may reflect an idea of mobility not only as a coping strategy, but also as an investment of resources in the expectation of a return. This return can take the shape of assets— legal documents such as identity cards and academic qualifications, but also hard currency derived from business opportunities—which enables both physical and social mobility. Indeed, the dynamics informing the pattern of movement examined here relate not only to security needs but also to aspirations and desires in a multifaceted Somali refugee populations of entrepreneurs and prospective students.

This analysis of the growing Somali diaspora in Uganda thus questions assumptions about conflict-related displacement, suggesting that they may oversimplify the phenomenon by adopting a monolithic view of refugees

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