Living in Limbo: A Profile of Djibouti's Somali Refugee Women

Wednesday, January 7, 2004
Laura M. Bisaillon
Eastern Africa

Somali author Nuruddin Farah reminds us that the lives of many Africans is highly precarious. For the refugee living in a country other than his/her own,this is even more the case. Indeed, Farah's comment is a direct quotation from a Somali refugee living in a Kenyan refugee camp at the beginning of the 1990s. The man had fled Somalia in 1991 after ethnic and clan conflict broke out in the country as a result of the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre's regime in January of that year. Ironically, the man had headed up a refugee camp for Ethiopians in Somalia from 1981 to 1989. At one time, Somalia was host to a constant stream of immigrants, with Ethiopians forming more than a quarter of the national population (Farah, 2000). After dispensing care to refugees for many years, the man found himself a refugee.
This example illustrates that the life of the refugee is indeed precarious: refugees are largely dependent on external assistance from the international community, the host government and locally based non-governmental organisations. It is also indicative of the close human and geo-spatial relationships that exist among the peoples of the Horn of Africa. If there are refugees in Djibouti, it is because of inter-regional and national conflicts, in addition to natural disasters, in the neighbouring countries of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

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