International affairs: focus of 4th Povolny Series lecture

Radhika Garland

In the fourth lecture of the Povolny Series in International Studies “Africa Today: Problems and Solutions”, Jacqueline Klopp, Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, discussed internal and international displacement in Africa.
Titled “Violence, Land and Dispossession: The Problems of International Displacement in Africa,” Klopp’s lecture gave a brief overview of the historical and current attitudes of the current Kenyan government towards displaced persons.
Klopp began her lecture by pointing out that the number of internally displaced persons has skyrocketed since the five million mark in 1970. Today it is estimated that there are over twenty-five million displaced persons globally.
Klopp also noted that Africa contains more internally displaced persons than the rest of the world’s countries combined. Having specialized in the politics of Kenya, Klopp made it the primary focus of her lecture.
In particular, she focused upon the relation between political movements and the level of displacement within Kenya.
“Displacement is most often linked to violence by precisely the state actors who are tasked with protecting citizens, which deeply complicates the problem of how to assist and protect the displaced,” said Klopp.
When Kenya first entered the process of democratization, powerful parties forcibly removed a large number of poverty-stricken Kenyans from their homes because they were likely to vote for the opposition.
Instead of currying the favor of these people to garner their votes, as party members in other established democracies would have done, these parties forcibly removed them.
With a change in regime in 2002, there was hope that there would be a policy change towards internally displaced persons.
With pressure from the United Nations and other international councils, many hoped that the new Kenyan government would acknowledge the rights of displaced persons to their land and property.
However, the new government had no intention of acknowledging the large number of IDPs in Kenya.
It had won votes based upon the popularity of politicians of the old regime, many of whom had benefited financially from the displacement of refugees off their land.
Party members were also unwilling to implicate fellow members who had helped them win the campaign and who continue to wield economic power.
Klopp discussed that since many bureaucrats in Kenya are also landowners, the subject of internal displacement has become a very sore topic for the Kenyan government. Today, the Kenyan government