Revisiting the Politics of Asylum in Africa: Explaining Kenya's Sub-National Policy Variation

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Barkley, Blake




The politics of asylum in Africa are changing. In recent years countries in Africa have taken increasingly different approaches from one another in the development, interpretation, and implementation of asylum policy. However, the advent of such variation is not just occurring between sovereign states, but also within them. It is no longer possible to refer to a generalized 'politics of asylum in Africa,' nor is it possible to omit discussions of sub-national politics from our analyses - as I contend that they play a valuable role in determining policy outcomes. To understand these changes, I ask what explains contemporary sub-national variation in the politics of asylum in Africa's major refugee hosting states? This dissertation uses Kenya to conduct a within-case comparison that examines the interpretation and implementation of Kenya's national asylum policy in its three major refugee hosting regions: the Dadaab refugee camps in Garissa County, the Kakuma refugee camps and the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement in Turkana County, and the urban refugee population in Kenya's Capital City, Nairobi. This dissertation argues that sub-national variation in Kenya has been facilitated, at least in part, by the introduction of the 2010 Constitution and the introduction of devolved governance to the country. Replacing Kenya's previously highly centralized political structure with democratically accountable county governments is expected to influence the political calculus of local elites, creating space for more diverse policy options in these contexts. As the scope of what is politically possible widens, so too does the potential for mutually beneficial outcomes that support both the refugee and local host populations. The politics of devolution in Kenya, while a key facilitating factor, is not the sole influence on the outcomes observed in each major refugee hosting region. I further argue that additional contextual factors unique to each major refugee hosting area such as the level of involvement from the central government, refugee population demographics, and local political opportunity structures work to shape and condition the limits of political possibilities at the sub-national level.


Political Science
International Law and Relations




Carleton University

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Political Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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