Skip to navigation

Skip to main content


March 1996, Volume 3, Number 3

Migration in Africa

In 1972, Idi Amin expelled most of the 70,000 Asians--who ran 90 percent of Uganda's businesses--from the country. Uganda became an economic back water--its 18 million people in 1995 had an annual per capita income of less than $200.

In 1990, Asians were allowed to return or file claims for their lost assets, and 7,000 have returned, investing perhaps $500 million of the $2 billion in foreign investment in Uganda over the past five years.

Kenya in November, 1995 swept hotels and other housing in Nairobi and detained foreigners who allegedly were in the country illegally. Kenya announced that many illegal foreigners were involved in criminal activities.

Men who migrate from interior areas of the sub-Sahara to coastal cities for work are bringing AIDS home. In many villages of Niger and Burkina Faso, where up to 80 percent of the working age males migrate to Abidjan, Accra, Lome, and Lagos, and polygamy is common, AIDS is believed to be spread from the coastal cities to the interior by migrants.

Zaire in February stepped up the pressure on Rwandans living in 40 camps in Zaire to return to Rwanda. The Kibumba camp, with 190,000 Rwandans, was closed in mid-February when Zairian troops surrounded it to put economic pressure on Rwandans to return.

The Hutu camps in Zaire were established 19 months ago, and have since developed extraordinarily sophisticated markets, according to refugee officials. For example a 1995 survey of four camps in Goma found 82,000 businesses, including 2,300 bars and 450 restaurants, sometimes stocked with war booty brought from Rwanda for what Hutu leaders thought might be a long exile. Zairian authorities have closed the Hutu businesses, on the grounds that they do not pay local taxes.

At the request of Mozambique, the South African Cabinet on February 21, 1996 agreed to grant an amnesty to illegal immigrants from Southern African Development Community countries if they have been in South Africa for five years. Illegal aliens from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the island of Mauritius who have been in South Africa for five years, had a formal or informal job, or a relationship with a South African spouse or child, could receive permission to stay.

South Africa repatriated 72,000 people to Mozambique in 1994.

There are an estimated three million illegal immigrants are in South Africa and the government contends that they are creating a problem with cross-border drug dealings.

South Africa and Botswana deported more than 24,000 Zimbabweans between January and November, 1995. According to South African police, most of the illegal immigrants were searching for employment, while some were trying to escape the police.

"S. Africa offers amnesty to long-term illegal aliens, Reuters, February 21, 1996. Michela Wrong, "Rwandan refugees adapt to adversity," Financial Times, February 22, 1996; James Mc Kinley, "Zaire steps up pressure on Rwandans to go home," New York Times, February 15, 1996; Howard French, "Migrant Workers Take AIDS Risk Home to Niger," New York Times, February 8, 1996; Michlela Wrong, "Uganda Asians start up again," Financial Times, February 5, 1996. "Over 24,000 Zimbabweans deported from South Africa, Botswana," Xinhua News Agency, January 10, 1996. "Increasing illegal immigration challenges S. Africa," Xinhua News Agency, January 9, 1996.