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The Comfort of Strangers

Jinmi Adisa


Heinz Küll

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1When the "winds of change" blew over the continent of Africa at the end of the Second World War bringing with them the hope of independence, Africans became conscious of the negative legacy of the colonial era and the artificial boundaries drawn at the turn of the century, which divided Africa into arbitrary political units. The old ruling elite, often pawns of the colonial regimes, were rendered obsolete as former colonies became democratic, independent nations. This crisis in leadership has intensified in the aftermath of the Cold War, as the young polities of Africa have been shattered by the weight of communal, ethnic or religious violence. Internal conflicts instigated a pattern of civil strife and social disorder, in which civilians were often used as weapons or targets, causing large-scale displacement, domestic instability, intra-state tension and international concern.

2Nowhere in Africa is the sheer magnitude of this political strife and the resulting refugee problem more acute than in the Great Lakes Region of East and Central Africa. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have fled across the borders of Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire. The largest shifts in population have been from Rwanda, where genocide has taken place on a large scale. These refugees arrive as destitute communities in host countries, which are already belaboured by developmental needs.

3The United Nations and other agencies reacted quickly to contain this situation and prevent extreme human suffering. Maintenance in enclosed camps became the norm, as the host communities eventually became hostile to the prolonged stay of the refugees. The United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), as part of their mandate, are concerned with overcoming this crisis. Our Great Lakes Project is positive evidence of the strength of this commitment. The Comfort of Strangers is a vivid portrayal of why this commitment is necessary and why Habitat cannot relent in its efforts. I recommend this book to everyone interested in the pursuit of peace and social justice in Rwanda as well as the stability of the Great Lakes Region.

Figure 1. Map of the Great Lakes Region of East and Central Africa

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1. Map of the Great Lakes Region of East and Central Africa
Fichier image/jpeg, 261k


UNCHS (Habitat)

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1995

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