Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Jennifer N. Fish

Committee Member

David C. Earnest

Committee Member

Dorian B. Crosby


As forced migrants linger at the borders of the world’s conflicts, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Rwanda remain in camps where they have waited for ‘durable solutions’ to their geographic and political existence for nearly two decades. Protracted displacement such as this results from processes at the local, state, regional, and international levels, with consequences reverberating each of these levels, including insecurity, expenditure of already limited resources, and strained interstate political relationships. As refugees’ stays extend to increasingly long periods of time, situations once assumed to be temporary take on a semblance of permanence. Forced displacement increasingly transitions to relatively durable living instances of conflict spillover, articulating the wider human impacts of such patterns of vital, and often understudied, outcomes of conflict and power struggles. Using a qualitative approach within a specific site of displacement in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, this study engages in dialog with notions of sovereignty, post-colonialism, social constructivism, burden-sharing, and social stratification to uncover the possible motivations for making refugee situations permanent.

Home to approximately 16,000 Congolese refugees, Kiziba Camp in western Rwanda serves as a microcosm through which one can observe these multi-layered humanitarian aid and refugee hosting processes. By analyzing semi-structured interview and ethnographic data collected from Kiziba Camp in 2011, 2013, and 2014, interviews with key Rwandan government representatives, and existing media sources and nongovernmental organization reports, this research links the pursuit and maintenance of state sovereignty, as well as aspects of social construction at the local-level, with processes that contribute to protracted displacement. Analyses of this original data reveal intentional and unintentional factors emanating from state foreign and domestic policies, NGO disaster and humanitarian assistance rhetoric, as well as refugees’ own conceptualization of citizenship, identity, and belonging that contribute to the durability refugee displacement. Through the personal narratives of community leaders of Kiziba Camp, this study begins to reveal a theory about state dependency on refugee hosting and the agency of refugees to imagine and define themselves, and how these factors contribute to a form of displacement that becomes increasingly durable over time.


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