Why African governments are accepting Afghan refugees

In the final days of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, a handful of African governments have raised their hands to welcome Afghan refugees. Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan and the self-proclaimed independent state of Somaliland have offered to host hundreds to thousands of refugees in their countries. These African governments — unlike some European countries who quickly closed their doors to displaced Afghans, see a moral imperative to respond. They are also spying on an opportunity to extract geopolitical concessions from the international community.

The offer of assistance from African nations must be welcomed, appreciated and understood from a humanitarian point of view. and geopolitical perspectives. In 2020, only 22,770 refugees have been resettled around the world, a record. Even before the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, an estimated 1.44 million forcibly displaced people were in need of emergency assistance by early 2021. Hundreds of thousands Afghans – or Following – will likely be forced to leave their homes in the coming months at a time when obstacles to their movement are at an all-time high. For many, escaping the Taliban is a matter of life and death. Long-term solutions for Afghan refugees unable or unwilling to return home in the foreseeable future will be needed; but whether carried out in Karachi or Kigali, safety and security are their main concerns in the short term.

Sub-Saharan African countries already host over 26 percent of the world’s refugee population. Most of the refugees come from neighboring countries and some have lived in camps and foreign countries for decades. there are still Burundians life in Tanzania who fled their country’s civil war in the 1990s, and several generations of Somalis who to reside in Kenyan refugee camps such as Dadaab. And it’s not always the displaced Africans: war-torn Somalia is residence to 6,800 Yemenis and over 700 Syrians. The reasons why many African countries continue to bear the costs of hosting so many refugees are complex, often stemming from a sense of moral responsibility, echoes of historic national traumas and the lure of geopolitical opportunism. In the case of Afghan refugees, all three factors are at play.

Rwanda and Uganda, which accepted 250 and 2,000 refugees, respectively, have similar motivations for complying with US requests to host refugees. Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited its “long history and tradition” of providing sanctuary to displaced people. In The conversation, researcher Evan Easton-Calabria Remarks that Uganda began taking in Polish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1940s and subsequently welcomed Burundians, Congolese, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Rwandans, South Sudanese and Sudanese. Known for its pioneering efforts to provide refugees with access to education, land tenure and other rights, Uganda hosts nearly 1.5 million refugees, the fourth largest refugee population in the world and the largest in Africa . Rwanda has been hosting refugees for two decades and many of its leaders, including President Paul Kagame, grew up in camps in neighboring countries. While hosting refugees in Uganda is more important, Rwanda’s traumatic history – including an ethnic pogrom in 1959, a civil war in the 1990s and genocide in 1994 – is undoubtedly a reason why it opened its doors to the oppressed around the world.

However, these principled motivations only partially explain the Ugandan and Rwandan enthusiasm to open their doors to Afghans. Uganda receives more foreign aid than its neighbors, largely due to its approach to hosting forcibly displaced people, funds that have benefited refugees and host communities in a country facing challenges regular economic. Both countries face growing international criticism for their undemocratic rule and human rights record, and likely view their acceptance of Afghan refugees as an opportunity to soften their international image and deter foreign partners from imposing sanctions. sanctions or other punitive measures.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, presided over a 2020 election so discredited that the United States abstained likewise deploy an observation team. President Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has tweeted on Uganda’s poor human rights record and the State Department imposed visa sanctions this year. Museveni, as he has done with his contributions to peacekeeping and the fight against terrorism, almost certainly hopes that hosting Afghan refugees will save him from further negative geopolitical repercussions. While the Rwandan Kagame is less exposed than his former comrade in arms Museveni, he is subject to international surveillance for his Stop of Rwanda Hotel hero paul Rusesabagina and a recent expose about the murder of a former Rwandan intelligence chief in South Africa. In the past he has threatened to expel refugees if the international community criticizes the activities of his country, demonstrating its willingness to use generosity perceived as a geopolitical tool. Kagame can expect his offer shelter Afghan schoolgirls, along with teachers and staff at the country’s only girls’ boarding school, the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA), provide reassurance before a more international conviction.

Somaliland and Sudan have a different calculation than Rwanda and Uganda, seeking US assertion rather than acquiescence. Somaliland, a former British colony that joined Italian-administered Somalia as an independent state in 1960, also suffered the horrors of war. Even before the disintegration of Somalia in the 1990s, the Somaliland suffered through what some call the “Hargeisa Holocaust”, when around 90 percent of their capital was destroyed and around 200,000 people were killed between 1987 and 1989. Somaliland, which declared independence in 1991, likely sees a parallel between its own difficulties and those from Afghanistan. A Somaliland’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed last month that his government had discussed temporarily hosting Afghan refugees with US officials. Sudan has also experienced the devastation of the conflict and the hardships of the fundamentalist Islamic regime. It waged a civil war that lasted for decades and the previous regime once housed Osama bin Laden and carried out genocide in Darfur. Sudan hosts the sixth largest refugee contingent in the world: around one million people from the Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia and South Sudan, as well as Syria. Although details are scarce, the Sudanese government has Express a desire to welcome “a limited group of Afghans … for a known period”.

Beyond humanitarianism, Somaliland and Sudan have additional motivations for accepting Afghan refugees. Somaliland, which is not recognized by a single government, wants to show that it is a responsible actor at the global level. His Minister of Foreign Affairs recognized this welcoming refugees “shows that Somaliland is a credible state with a stake in international affairs.” The Somaliland government apparently wants to use its hosting of refugees to continue building its case – alongside its record of stability and free and fair elections – towards international recognition. Sudan, on the other hand, wants to rehabilitate its reputation as an international pariah state and cement American support for its democratic transition. After the overthrow of dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2018, the new government, a mix of military and civilian leaders, worked diligently to gain US support, even welcoming the USAID administrator. Power of Samantha during one of his first visits abroad. He normalized relations with Israel, banned female genital mutilation, quashed the death penalty as apostasy, and agreed to settle the claims of victims of the attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and against the USS Cole in off the coast of Yemen. Several of these steps were obligatory by the United States to lift the designation of state sponsor of terrorism and restore the country’s access to international lending institutions. While there is no immediate demand from Khartoum in return for hosting Afghan refugees, it is almost certainly another measure to keep him in Washington’s good graces.

The US government should congratulate and warmly welcome the offers of these countries to host Afghan refugees. The need, of course, is great. More than 123,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan in the weeks leading up to the US withdrawal on September 1; although exact numbers are not available, it is safe to say that at least half of the evacuees were Afghan citizens awaiting treatment and added to an already huge number of people around the world in need of resettlement . It is in this long line that the Afghans of Africa are to be found. Although out of immediate danger from the Taliban, their future remains uncertain. African leaders are talking about temporarily hosting Afghans while asylum claims are processed in the United States and elsewhere beyond the continent. Given the extensive background checks and screening procedures prior to admission to the United States, the “temporary” accommodation provided by Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan and Somaliland could last for months or even years. .

As the United States continues to urge these and other African countries to host Afghans, it should provide the necessary assistance to refugees and their host communities for as long as needed, especially if there are distinct cultural, religious or other accommodations needed to accommodate them. provide protection and support to these recently displaced and vulnerable Afghans. American diplomats must also be prepared to handle the inevitable geopolitical demands. Despite the generosity of African nations, these requests must be carefully considered, avoiding any appearance of counterpart for the reception of refugees and the provision of humanitarian aid. The United States should focus on providing assistance to refugees and their host communities while working swiftly towards the permanent resettlement of Afghans in third countries. While difficult, it is not impossible to resolve difficult trade-offs between refugee assistance needs and the broader goals of human rights and democracy in the region.

Rwanda, Uganda, Somaliland and Sudan have a history of generosity to displaced people and refugees and should be appreciated for their willingness to welcome vulnerable Afghans, whatever the reason. It is important – and possible – that policy makers support these good deeds without compromising or adjusting other priorities.

About Mitchel McMillan

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