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Home, again: refugee return and post-conflict violence in Burundi

Schwartz, Stephanie (2019) Home, again: refugee return and post-conflict violence in Burundi. International Security, 44 (2). 110 - 145. ISSN 0162-2889

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Identification Number: 10.1162/ISEC_a_00362


Conflict between returning refugees and nonmigrant populations is a pervasive yet frequently overlooked security issue in post-conflict societies. Although scholars have demonstrated how out-migration can regionalize, prolong, and intensify civil war, the security consequences of return migration are undertheorized. An analysis of refugee return to Burundi after the country’s 1993–2005 civil war corroborates a new theory of return migration and conflict: return migration creates new identity divisions based on whether and where individuals were displaced during wartime. These cleavages become new sources of conflict in the countries of origin when local institutions, such as land codes, citizenship regimes, or language laws, yield differential outcomes for individuals based on where they lived during the war. Ethnographic evidence gathered in Burundi and Tanzania from 2014 to 2016 shows how the return of refugees created violent rivalries between returnees and nonmigrants. Consequently, when Burundi faced a national-level political crisis in 2015, prior experiences of return shaped both the character and timing of outmigration from Burundi. Illuminating the role of reverse population movements in shaping future conflict extends theories of political violence and demonstrates why breaking the cycle of return and repeat displacement is essential to the prevention of conflict.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2024 15:51
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2024 09:24

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