Reintegrating ex-combatants crucial for peace in Africa: UN-backed conference

24 June 2005

Returning ex-combatants to civilian life is critical for the success of African peace processes, according to participants at a conference on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes in Freetown, Sierra Leone, organized by the Government of that country and the United Nations.

“DDR has been at the heart” of the transition from war to peace, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone said as he opened the three-day conference. “Without a comprehensive DDR programme, the prospects for long-term stability will remain dim. All post-conflict programmes – be they political, social or economic – depend on DDR and how people judge its success.”

The Conference on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Stability in Africa, held 21-23 June, concluded that more attention, energies and resources should be devoted to the reintegration aspects of DDR, in which the combatants are returned to their communities, for peace to endure.

Reintegration activities are not only more complex in nature, but also confront difficulties in attracting sufficient voluntary financing, compared with disarmament and demobilization, which are funded from assessed peacekeeping resources, participants said.

Participants also agreed that DDR efforts must be better tailored to specific national circumstances, be nationally managed, take into account the regional dimensions of conflicts and be linked to wider reconstruction, recovery and development efforts.

The Conference was co-organized by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. The more than 100 participants came from 15 African countries, as well as from a number of donor countries and international and regional organizations. They included international DDR experts, Government officials, current and former members of national DDR commissions and peacekeeping missions, beneficiaries of DDR programmes, members of armed forces and representatives of women’s associations, civil society groups and communities hosting ex-combatants.

A series of eight detailed case studies were presented from Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Participants from Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Somalia and Uganda also shared their experiences.


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