Politics and practises of refugee self-reliance in trifurcated states of north-western Tanzania
Boeyink, Clayton Todd
The Tanzanian government, led by President Magufuli, has implemented a series of shutdowns, which have severely constrained opportunities for livelihoods and selfreliance in refugee camps in North-Western Tanzania. These shutdowns, which flatten class and socio-economic stratification, include the closures of camp markets, a cancellation of a popular cash transfer programme, and sudden pull-out of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), a UN push to loosen restrictions for refugees. This thesis examines these shutdowns and their effects from above and below, which were purposefully designed to impel refugees to return to Burundi and Congo. These heavy-handed tactics are not new but follow the impulse to contain and manipulate mobilities of refugees and migrants, which follows a colonial genealogy. I argue against popular conceptualisations of camps as communities, cities, or ‘surrogate states’. Instead, I speak with Mahmood Mamdani’s theorisation of the ‘bifurcated state’ of indirect rule and its continuities after independence. Camps compare in many ways as a third, ‘trifurcated’ space which functions similarly to indirect rule. Simultaneously, I argue power and authority in camps is best understood as ‘trifurcated’ through a Foucauldian approach where governance is shared, contested, and entangled between the state, the humanitarian government, and refugees. The three tiers are not equal, as the state shutdown politics demonstrate. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and implementing partners repeatedly fail to protect refugees and are relegated to practising 'pithy development’ projects in the camp. The story does not end here, however, as camp residents’ daily mobilities circumvent and co-opt the humanitarian violence of containment. Thousands participate in illegal ‘invisible’ displacement agriculture outside the camp and sell food rations through networks of madalali, or brokers, which stretch across Tanzania and East Africa. Despite these inspiring agential practises of self-reliance, I am not hopeful for the future of refugees in Tanzania. Many camp residents are involuntarily leaving due to the impossibility of self-reliance or are bracing for a repeat forced return to Burundi.