Questioning mainstream approaches to the reintegration of former soldiers in Liberia

In Liberia, the disarmament and demobilisation of ex-combatants was quite effective. However the reintegration and rehabilitation components of the programme were less successful. A paper published by MICROCON argues that this is because the programme in Liberia, as in other African contexts, was formulated without enough attention to the local context.

The Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme in Liberia, as elsewhere, was built on the assumption that there is something particularly dangerous and marginalised about the group of people who constituted the rank and file of armed organisations during the war. However, although the motives for joining varied, MICROCON's research shows that security considerations were among the most important - people joined in order to protect themselves, their families and their communities.

Large numbers of ex-combatants are unemployed in Liberia, partly because the DDR programme provided them with training for jobs which did not exist. The paper argues that in the Liberian context a more promising approach would have been to encourage former soldiers to peacefully draw on the skills, experiences and networks that they gained during the war, rather than trying to break these up. It illustrates the argument with the case study of a nightwatch patrol in Voinjama in Lofa county.

The authors conclude that DDR programmes need to be based on an understanding of the particular nature and form of soldiers' involvement in conflicts, and not on generic assumptions about fighters as somehow detached from society.

The paper was written by Morten Bøås and Ingunn Bjorkhaug from Fafo AIS, and can be downloaded here.

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Tags: DDR, Ex-combatants, Liberia

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