By James Gatdet Dak
August 31, 2010 (JUBA) – Out of 90,000 soldiers targeted to be demobilized by the SPLA – the former rebels who govern south Sudan – since a 2005 peace deal with the Khartoum government, only 6,000 have been reintegrated back into society, says the Vice President of the semi-autonomous region.
Riek Machar, said that the national Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme for ex-combatants in southern Sudan would be reviewed following the difficulties faced during schemes implementation over the last five years.
DDR is a process by which former fighters are removed from the army and assisted to reintegrate into civilian communities.
Since the north-south civil war ended in 2005 the southern government has only managed to demobilize 7% (6,000) of the 90,000 they originally targeted.
The first soldiers targeted for demobilization were categorized as a ‘Special Needs Group’, including elderly combatants, women soldiers below the rank of officer, disabled fighters, the sick and non-combat support personnel who are on the payroll of the army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
In remarks during the inauguration of the new building for the DDR Commisson, Riek Machar said it was not an easy exercise to tell someone who has fought for 22 years – the length of the north-south civil war – to leave the army and go home now there is peace. He added the issue is a dilemma for policy makers and should be reviewed so that the process can be done faster.
The Vice President said that this group needed to receive support and training so that they become self-reliant instead of reintegrating them into the poverty that exists in many parts of south Sudan. He said in the Sudanese law, any person who has served for 12 years can be given a pension.
Machar said that he hoped the DDR Commsion will give ex-combatants the skills they require to make a success of civilian life and to help support themselves and their families in the future.
The programme, the Vice President said, “provides short-term support to ex-combatants as they make the transition from soldier to civilian life. This takes the form of food rations for a family of five for 3 months, a basic kit of non-food items, plus a grant of just 860 SDG to help with transportation home.”
UNICEF estimate that there are still 900 child soldiers in the ranks of the former southern rebels nearly 6 years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) officially ended hostilities between the SPLA and Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party.