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Arms-burning ceremony in Brazzaville lights a flame of peace, UN agency says

Arms-burning ceremony in Brazzaville lights a flame of peace, UN agency says

Calling it a "flame of peace," the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said today that a recent weapons burning ceremony in the Republic of the Congo has lit the way to new lives for former militia fighters who had turned in their rifles.

"We all know that the fire of war always produces devastation," said William Paton, the Resident Representative of UNDP, which sponsored the 14 April event in Brazzaville, the country's capital. "But the bonfire of weapons is proof that the flame of peace can destroy the tools of war."

The 1,000 destroyed rifles had been collected through a UNDP-designed project, which was implemented by the International Organization on Migration (IOM). Since last December, the project has collected over 8,000 weapons.

According to UNDP, the weapons and ammunition are taken to a secure compound where they are destroyed. The project also provides reintegration assistance and income generating activities for some 4,000 ex-combatants. On average, they receive a $300 reintegration grant, enough to start a small business, individually or in small groups.

The Republic of the Congo underwent a series of deadly conflicts in the 1990s, when young men facing unemployment and uncertainty were easily induced to join the militias, and some 30,000 did so.

In August 1999, the government announced a general amnesty for militias, and at the end of the year, the warring parties signed a peace agreement. Reintegration of unemployed youth in the militias became a priority to help consolidate peace.

The project was started with $350,000 from the UNDP Small Arms Trust Fund with technical support from the organization's Emergency Response Division. Norway, Sweden, and the United States have provided $1,370,000, and the European Union has pledged an additional $665,000 for the effort.