Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Displacement, identity and conflict in the African Great Lakes

Perera, Sudakshini Marini (2012) Displacement, identity and conflict in the African Great Lakes. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86492) (KAR id:86492)


This thesis offers a new approach to understanding, and dealing with, the Rwandan Hutu refugee warrior groups who operate in the Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through an integrated analysis of local Kivutian and national Congolese conflict dynamics, I examine the structures of violence within which Rwandan Hutu refugee warriors operate, and demonstrate how Rwandan Hutu refugees in the Kivus are following in the footsteps of other refugee warrior groups in the region. These much-maligned and marginalized Rwanda Hutu groups have faced nearly two decades of existential threats. Yet, despite extensive operations to remove them from the Kivus, they have managed to evade capture, remain in the Congo, and pursue belligerent activities there. I argue that the failure to reduce the threat of Rwandan Hutu refugee warrior groups can be attributed to a dearth of understanding about their strategies and motivations. In this thesis, I suggest a way of shedding light on significant aspects of refugee warriors' operational strategies by analyzing their refugee experience, and the subsequent impact this has on their identity and security decisions. I offer a theoretical framework for analysing refugee identity and apply it to the Rwandan Hutu refugee warriors operating in the Kivus. From this analysis, I suggest the need for a new strategy when it comes to dealing with the threat that Rwandan Hutus pose to the security of both Rwanda and the Congo, and advocate an approach which is more empathetic to the security concerns of Rwandan Hutus in exile. It is hope that transforming Rwandan Hutu militants from refugee warriors into legitimate political actors in both the Congo and Rwanda will provide a durable solution to the threat that they pose, and that this will have knock~on effects which reduce the overall militarization of the eastern Congo.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Hammerstad, Anne
Thesis advisor: Miall, Hugh
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86492
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2019 13:54 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2022 11:50 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.