Refugees and Internally Displaced Peoples within the Horn of Africa

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The words refugee and internally displaced people (IDP) are broadly used terms that are almost synonymous in meaning. Refugees are a group of people that have fled their homes into another country in order to escape war, conflict or some other tragedy. On the other hand, IDP are citizens who fled their homes for the same reasons but remained in their country of origin. There are approximately 12 million refugees and IDP within Africa and almost two-thirds, or 7.7 million, are located in the Horn of Africa (Central Intelligence Agency [C.I.A.], 2011). Despite the high number of refugees and IDP in the Horn of Africa, the focus will be on Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan. This paper will attempt to shed a light on the plight of refugees and IDP and their potential impact on interests of the United States (U.S.).

Eritrea has the lowest number of refugees and IDP with almost 32,000 people displaced from their homes. However, this was not the case in the early 1990s when there were almost 280,000 refugees and 75,000 IDP as a result of the Eritrean/Ethiopian war (C.I.A., 2011). Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, leading to violent struggles and border disputes for years to follow. At one point the fighting was so intense that soldiers from both sides were locked in a fierce battle long after the civilians had fled the area. The soldiers were essentially fighting over vacant and desolate villages because a large portion of the civilians fled into refugee camps located in Ethiopia, Sudan or Kenya.

Additionally, thousands of Eritreans flee their homeland illegally because of conscription. Conscription is the practice of citizens enrolling into mandatory national service, usually the military. These soldiers are h...

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