Evolution and Coping Mechanisms of Congolese Refugees in Kitengela, Kajiado County- Kenya: 1960- 2015
Kamau, Simon Njoroge
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The refugee phenomenon is a global crisis and as such has been a challenge to the Kenyan Government as much as it has been to the international community. UNHCR (2000) confirms that globally there are more than 60 million people forcefully displaced from their homes worldwide. The problem of the study was pegged on the need to investigate the refugee phenomenon with a focus on the Congolese refugees in Kitengela, Kajiado County, Kenya 1960 to 2015. The objectives of the study were to interrogate the conflicts and the emergence of refugee phenomenon in Congo 1960-1990; investigate the evolution and settlement of the Congolese refugees in Kitengela 1990-2002 and examine the challenges and coping mechanisms of the Congolese refugees in Kitengela 2003-2015. The study was guided by African and resilience theories and utilized exploratory descriptive survey design. The study targeted 100 household heads that formed a 20% sample of the total number of Congolese refugees in the area at the time of study. In addition, the study collected data from local administrators as key informants. Also targeted as key informants were the leaders of 4 NGOs and religious organizations operating in the area of study. For primary data collection, the study utilized interview guides for household heads and guided questionnaire for key informants. On the other hand, secondary data was generated from documents mainly books, journal articles and reports. The analysis of the generated data revealed that Congo has been hit by series of conflicts and civil wars since independence in 1960. Since then there has been internal warfare and conflicts fueled by internal struggles for political power and sequential overthrow of the governments which have caused many Congolese to free the country and seek asylum from the neighboring countries. The conflicts culminated with the outbreak of the first and second Congo wars of 1996 and 1998, respectively. Additionally, tensions in the neighboring countries, including genocide in Rwanda caused civil wars in Congo. Unfortunately, the official end of the wars in 2003 did not end internal conflicts and the influx of Congolese refugees in culminated into conflicts and tensions between Congo and the neighboring countries especially Rwanda and Uganda caused much tension in Congo that caused many Congolese to free the country. These were the refugees that sought asylum in Kenya and eventually settled in Kitengela. The study further revealed that refugees in Kitengela have had many challenges ranging from economic hardships to cultural shock, problem of communication and harassment by local law enforcement agents. As coping mechanisms, the study established that Congolese refugees were engaged in small trade, casual and self-employment. They also received social support from religious organizations, relatives in Diaspora and social support groups in Kitengela. The study recommends that religious organizations do more to reach out to the refugees and offer essential skills training so that they can secure gainful employment. The local NGOs should also implement programs to help refugees engage in income generating activities such as teaching them marketable skills. The government should also fast track the issuance of documentation for incoming refugees to avoid harassment by the police and also to enable them get gainful employment.