TRAFIG Working Paper No. 4

Figurations of Displacement in the DRC

Empirical findings and reflections on protracted displacement and translocal connections of Congolese IDPs

This working paper is based on empirical research on translocal figurations of displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It contains methodological reflections, central findings, and reflections on these findings. Drawing on the conceptual framework that was developed in TRAFIG working paper 1, this paper explores TRAFIG’s central question: “How are protractedness, dependency and vulnerability related to the factors of local and translocal connectivity and mobility, and, in turn, how can connectivity and mobility be utilised to enhance the self-reliance and strengthen the resilience of displaced people?” The paper presents findings from the east of the DRC, where many internally displaced persons (IDPs) seek refuge in host communities.

Findings show that prior connections with members in the host communities are usually within the domestic sphere and are important drivers for people’s decision to flee to a specific place. In rebuilding their lives in displacement—and hence in their efforts to move out of protracted displacement and to become integrated— these contacts are often key to set in motion a ‘chain of connectivity’ that opens up new opportunities: One contact helps them to get in touch with the next contact. For IDPS, it is not so much the number of their connections that are important but the quality of these connections. A small number of vertical connections with socio-economically more powerful and/or better- integrated contacts can sometimes be more helpful than a large number of horizontal connections with people that are in equally vulnerable positions. When IDPs use mobility as an asset to become integrated, this mobility is mostly used to free resources in the community of origin and to capitalise on these resources in the new environment. In this way, rural resources become part of people’s urban livelihood strategies. By introducing these resources in the city and thereby drawing on their translocal connections, IDPs enrich the local economy and at the same time become more accepted and better integrated.


Protracted displacement, IDPs, legal framework, urban displacement, IDP‒host relations, connectivity, mobility, agency, durable solutions, local integration, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Authors: Carolien Jacobs, Innocent Assumani, Rachel Sifa Katembera, Stanislas Lubala Kubiha, Patrick Milabyo Kyamusugulwa, Joachim Ruhamya Mugenzi.

Cite as: Jacobs C. et al. (2020). Figurations of Displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Empirical findings and reflections on protracted displacement and translocal connections of Congolese IDPs (TRAFIG working paper 4). Bonn: BICC.

To download the working paper, please click here.

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