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This paper explores the changing relationship between the people of North-Western Zambia and the nearby border with Angola, focusing on the period as Angola has moved from war to peace. Drawing on research conducted between 1996 and 2010, the paper examines how people’s interactions with the border have changed, focusing on their cross-border livelihoods, identities and mobility. With the end of the war and the rehabilitation of the formal border crossing, legal restrictions and practical obstacles to movement have relaxed; at the same time, the conventions – based on informal, ‘illicit’ understandings between local officials and inhabitants on both sides of the border – that operated for many years have been undermined. Hence, there has simultaneously been both an ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ of the border. Moreover, the breaking of these conventions since the end of the war has reduced the size of the zone of informal exchange and hybridity, or borderlands.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



borderlands; Angola; Zambia; refugee policy; national identity; livelihoods; migration; legal status; socio-legal conventions