in: Ethnicities 14 (5), 634-649
Perception of refugees in Nairobi goes beyond the generic and homogenizing term ‘refugees’ and the legal instruments guiding the hosting of refugees. Legal instruments such as the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 African Union Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa take the position that refugee hosting is humanitarian and apolitical. Based on the experiences and circumstances of Somali refugees in Nairobi, this paper takes a contrary view and argues that refugee hosting is political and shaped by interpretation of the conflict that the refugees fled and their perceived political implications for the host country. The paper locates accentuation and criminalization of Somali religious affiliation in the localization of global conflicts and globalization of local conflicts in which the predominantly Muslim Somali refugees become the local and regional epitome of contemporary global terrorism as the conflict in Somalia has global ramifications due to its association with global terrorism. Having demonstrated the role of regional and global politics in the hosting of Somalis in Kenya, the paper also argues that Somalis are not helpless victims of circumstances as they create counter-narratives that seek to de-legitimize politicization and criminalization of their religious and ethnic affiliations.