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There are many challenges facing DDR programmes in post conflict states. In this essay I will look primarily at the conflict in Sierra Leone and the challenges that DDR faced during the peace process there. However, I will make comparisons with other conflict states, such as Liberia and the DRC, when it offers useful analysis. I will start by giving a brief overview of how the DDR programme was instigated in Sierra Leone. I will then look at the challenges posed by regional issues that threaten to exacerbate existing tensions. Next I will look at the policy of 'one man, one gun' and analyse the potential strengths and weaknesses of implementing eligibility requirements of this kind. When this is established I will look at the challenges facing the reintegration phase of DDR and especially that of skill development and civilian reintegration. Lastly I will evaluate the extensive challenges posed by child soldiers, and in particular girls, on all stages of DDR. I will conclude with a summary of how DDR can overcome the challenges discussed. There are other key challenges to the success of DDR that due to the length of this essay I will not be able to cover but that would deserve equal attention. These include issues of funding on all stages of DDR, and especially the 'R' phase, and the challenges posed by the manipulation of funds and resources by politicians and rebel leaders.
The Sierra Leone civil war started in 1991. By 1997, 50% of the population was internally displaced, Rebel groups controlled more than half of the country, and Sierra Leone was recorded as having the lowest Human Development Index of any country by the UNDP (Bradley et al. 2002). However, by 2002 the country was well on its way to restoring order through peaceful negotiations (ibid). HumH
This has been hailed by many as being, in part, down to a successful DDR programme (UN Conference Report 2005: 4). It started in 1997 with the first of three phases. The second phase began in October 1999 with the implementation of the Lomé peace agreement. The third phase ran from May 2001 to January 2002. Altogether the three phases lasted four years, during which 72,500 combatants were disarmed and demobilized; 42,330 weapons and 1.2 million pieces of ammunition were collected and destroyed (Bradley et al. 2002). The Sierra Leone DDR programme has been upheld by many as an example to the rest of Africa of how DDR can aid the long-term peace process (UN Conference Report 2005: 4). However, as will be shown, the DDR process in Sierra Leone was not without its problems.
Throughout the last two decades, conflicts in West Africa have all had strong regional dimensions (Gislesen 2006: 20) - Sierra Leone is no exception. This has resulted in large-scale cross border movements of arms and combatants, which has undoubtedly exacerbated existing tensions in the region and aided the prolonging of the conflicts within (ibid). 'Often combatants have demobilised in one country, only to reappear as combatants in a neighbouring conflict' (Gislesen 2006: 20). The danger here is that a flawed DDR process in one country could 'release' former combatants to other countries and conflicts in the region (ibid). This was seen in Liberia, where some of the child soldiers involved in the fighting during the outbreak in 2002 and 2003 had come from Sierra Leone (Gislesen 2006: 20). 'They had either failed to go through DDR or had not been properly reintegrated, and were easily re-recruited due to geographical proximity' (Lahai 2006 in Gislesen 2006: 20). Further challenges that stem from the cross-border movement of combatants are that many attempt to benefit from the DDR programmes twice (Gislesen 2006: 20). This puts an additional financial and logistical strain on DDR programmes, which could compromise their effectiveness. In order to overcome these challenges DDR programmes must take regional implications into account. Sierra Leone made strides towards building relations with its neighbours (Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Liberia) however, there needs to be a regional focus in the designing phase of a DDR programme to address the root causes of the conflict and effectively demobilise and reintegrate the different groups involved, to the different areas in the region (UN Conference Report 2005: 5). The peace process in a region as a whole is just as important as for a single country such as Sierra Leone. Indeed, 'the presence of armed combatants in any country in the West Africa sub-region does not bode well for the stability of all' (UNDDR Resource Centre).
Disarmament is important becomes it removes one of the major tools of violence (Gislesen 2006: 13). However, incomplete or partial disarmament can undermine DDR efforts and have destabilising consequences on the overall peace process (as was seen in Liberia in the 1990s) (see Gislesen 2006: 13). To combat this problem the policy of 'one man, one weapon' was introduced (See Malan 2000: 12). However, having this as the only eligibility requirement for DDR has led many combatants to view demobilisation as a 'weapons-buy-back' programme (Kai-Kai 2001: 121). In other words, people distribute and buy arms cheaply and then exchange them for money at a disarmament site (Gislesen 2006: 13). Alongside this it could increase the regional movement of weapons if combatants attempt to disarm in the region that offers the best DDR benefits (ibid) - As was seen in Sierra Leone and Liberia (ibid).
The 'one man, one weapon' policy has also more often than not led to the exclusion of child soldiers, especially girls, from entering DDR programmes. Girls often didn't carry weapons whilst accompanying the fighting forces or their leaders would give their weapons to adult friends or relatives so that they could receive the DDR benefits instead (Gislesen 2006: 13). DDR in Liberia attempted to alleviate this issue by allowing people to disarm without presenting a weapon. Instead they could enter demobilisation camps by handing over 150 rounds of ammunition (International Crisis Group 2004: 10). This was hugely problematic. The lowering of eligibility requirements, coupled with a US$300 pay out for reintegration, alongside a lack of social-stigma attached to ex-combatants in Liberia, provided a powerful motivation for many combatants, and civilians, to enter the demobilisation camps (Paes 2005: 257). This inflated caseload of beneficiaries is not necessarily a bad thing, but UNMIL did not have the financial support to deal with the huge influx of combatants trying to demobilise (ibid).
The DDR programme in Sierra Leone also attempted to address the challenge of female combatants and camp followers by introducing group disarmament. Although this allowed female combatants and children to 'demobilise' it gave rebel leaders the opportunity to withhold weapons and 'falsify' the numbers of combatants and arms being turned in (Bradley et al. 2002). Consequently, group disarmament left large numbers of weapons in circulation which raised serious concerns about a return to violence (DPKO 2003: 25). However, allowing children to enter DDR without presenting a weapon is, despite the potential security implications, the only way of ensuring that child soldiers are included in the process (Gislesen 2006: 13). Of course it was not simply the case that a child could wander into a disarmament site and be accepted. In order to separate children who had simply been displaced from their families and those who were involved with the fighting forces there were certain tests they could take. For instance, demonstrating suitable knowledge of how to use a fire-arm as well as demonstrating knowledge of the fighting forces themselves (Robertshaw 2006 in Gislesen 2006: 14). Girls who had been sexually abused were eligible for DDR regardless of whether or not they had knowledge of how to use a gun. However girls were unlikely to come forward in fear of stigmatisation (Edward Juma Abu 2006 in Gislesen 2006: 14). Consequently, the majority of female child soldiers in Sierra Leone were excluded from DDR as they were simply labelled as 'dependants', or 'camp followers', rather than combatants (Gislesen 2006: 14).
During the Disarmament stage of DDR there is a dilemma between trying to include as many child soldiers as possible, and, collect as many weapons as possible. There needs to be a universal change in policy to allow child soldiers to demobilize with or without surrendering a weapon (Gislesen 2006: 49). Eligibility requirements need to be carefully and clearly defined at the start of a DDR programme and not altered during the process - as was seen in Liberia. Whilst 'One man, one weapon' criterion can pry away rebels from their groups it can be considered 'aggressive' and 'unfriendly' by rebel commanders (Bradley et al. 2002). Group disarmament is a faster and more efficient process but it does allow commanders to manipulate the numbers of combatants and arms going through DDR, and leaves large numbers of weapons in circulation (Bradley et al. 2002). Thus the challenge facing DDR programmes is how to demobilise as many combatants as possible and yet collect and destroy as many weapons as possible. This is a balancing act of which there is no universally agreed solution.
The reintegration phase of DDR in Sierra Leone started in late 2000/2001 (almost a year after the disarmament and demobilisation phase ended) (UNDDR Resource Centre). By 2002, 56,700 ex-combatants had registered for reintegration training. By the time the reintegration phase had ended (January 2004) 51,122 ex-combatants had been through trade skill training including, carpentry, masonry, and tailoring (ibid). However this training only lasted six months. This was clearly not long enough to sufficiently provide ex-combatants with the knowledge and experience necessary to realistically compete in the labour market. When this is coupled with the fact that there was still discrimination against ex-combatants in the labour market it is not surprising that many of them were unable to find work (UNDDR Resource Centre). Moreover, Sierra Leone's 'desperate' economic situation meant there was very few jobs for anyone in the country post conflict, let alone ex-combatants (Sesay and Suma 2008). Sierra Leone was not the only post conflict state that had problems with its reintegration phase. In the Ituri region in the DRC, some 10,000 ex-combatants had to wait 10 months before civilian reintegration programmes became available (Amnesty International 2007: 17). Consequently, by the end of 2005, around two thirds of ex-combatants remained unemployed in the region (UN S/2005/506: 5). For both Sierra Leone and the DRC this was hugely problematic given that ex-combatants are more likely to take up arms again without prospects for long-term socio-economic opportunities (ibid). To overcome this challenge it is necessary for DDR programmes to work alongside other post conflict processes to improve the environment in which newly trained ex-combatants are seeking work. Alongside this there must be adequate funds and resources to sufficiently train those who volunteer for reintegration services.
There are numerous challenges facing the successful DDR of child soldiers. These include, the difficulties of tracing their families, the difficulties of creating viable opportunities post demobilisation, how to re-integrate child combatants who were not involved directly in warfare, issues of disease and malnutrition, the special needs of girl soldiers, the problems of child soldiers demobilising as adults, and dealing with psychological trauma. In order for DDR to be successful it must address all these challenges. Child soldiers have received little attention from the academic community regarding post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building, despite the fact that child soldiers have constituted one third of all fighting forces in West Africa (Gislesen 2006: 4). For this reason many DDR programmes have overlooked the intricate challenges that child soldiers present to the peace process. Indeed, 'The reintegration of former child soldiers is the most complex and most time-consuming part of all DDR' (Gislesen 2006: 23). In order to address these challenges there first needs to be universal agreement on what defines a 'child soldier'. The Cape Town Principles defines a child soldier as 'any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity' (UNICEF 1997: Definitions). Therefore this includes children recruited as cooks, porters, messengers, and girls recruited for sexual purposes. However simply setting eligibility requirements for child soldiers is not enough to ensure that they are appropriately demobilised and reintegrated.
Donald Robertshaw, Child Protection Officer at UNICEF, claimed that the small numbers of children going through DDR in Sierra Leone was not because they were being turned away for failing to meet eligibility requirements, but rather that they were simply not coming to the demobilisation sites (Robertshaw 2006 in Gislesen 2006: 15). In Sierra Leone, 'it is estimated that there have been as many as 10,000-15,000 child Soldiers' (ibid), yet only 6,845 went through the DDR process (Aboagye and Bah 2004: 9). The discrepancy between estimated child soldiers and DDR participants can be seen most notably in the case of girl soldiers. 'Girls have been associated with all the armed groups that are present in Sierra Leone' (SC-UK, 2005: 7). In fact, it is estimated that around 30% of child soldiers in Sierra Leone were girls (Mazurana et al. 2002: 107). Despite this, very few girls go through DDR - only 8% of child soldiers who participated in DDR in Sierra Leone were girls (Robertshaw 2006 in Gislesen 2006: 15). Furthermore, UNICEF estimates that around 3,000 girls who were eligible for DDR did not even come forward to be registered (UNICEF 2005a: 16).
So the challenge becomes, why do child soldiers, and especially girl soldiers, not come to the demobilisation sites? In some cases it is a misunderstanding of eligibility. According to Gislesen, many children thought that only those over 18, those who carried a gun, or those who were directly involved in the armed conflict were eligible (Gislesen 2006: 16). There is also evidence to suggest that many children were 'manipulated' and 'deliberately misinformed' by their rebel leaders regarding their eligibility for DDR (ibid). In Sierra Leone, many rebel leaders were fearful of persecution if they were found to have recruited child soldiers and thus attempted to either prevent them demobilizing or convinced them to demobilise as adults (SC-UK, 2005: 9). Francis Lahai, Child Protection Officer at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children's Affairs (MSWGCA), says this was common amongst the Kamarjos and CDF, who claimed they had no children in their groups out of fear of persecution (Lahai 2006 in Gislesen 2006: 16). Consequently it is likely that many of the child soldiers associated with these groups have not come forward for DDR. Furthermore, many leaders prevented girl soldiers from going through DDR because they were valuable in the post-conflict period (Gislesen 2006: 16). 'Whilst boy combatants are of little value to leaders post-conflict, girls can be used as domestic workers, sexual slaves, cooks and "wives"' (Twum-Danso 2003: 11).
There are also challenges facing the success of DDR in child soldiers regarding reintegration. In Sierra Leone adult combatants were offered a 'Transitional Safety Net Allowance' (TSA) of $600, paid in instalments, during the civilian reintegration process (Gislesen 2006: 18). In Liberia, the NCDDRR included child ex-combatants in its TSA payments, whilst Sierra Leone offered child ex-combatants rehabilitation services instead. These included three months of 'psychosocial counselling, personal supplies, family tracing, and reunification support'. Long term support included 'placement in schools, training opportunities and benefits from community reintegration programmes' (Gislesen 2006: 18). In Sierra Leone it was believed that cash benefits to children would simply end up in the hands of their rebel leaders or would give out the impression that using children as combatants would result in a cash "reward" (Caritas Makeni 2006). However, only giving cash benefits to adults creates a challenge all the same. Many child soldiers were tempted by the instant cash benefits awarded to adults as opposed to the long term skills training and education opportunities and thus demobilised as adults instead. This problem is further exacerbated when it is considered that many leaders force their child combatants to demobilize as adults anyway due to fear of persecution for recruiting them (Gislesen 2006: 18). In order to overcome the challenge of child soldiers demobilizing as adults, DDR must include young adults in their child reintegration programmes. In the worlds of the UN Secretary General, 'some of the key programmes available to children in the DDR process, particularly psychosocial counselling, family reunification, and educational opportunities, should also be made available to young adults who were recently child soldiers' (UN Doc. S/2004/200). Alongside this DDR programmes must work with other peace building processes, such as truth and reconciliation commissions, so that rebel commanders do not prevent their child combatants from entering disarmament camps out of fear of persecution.
Another prominent challenge comes when attempting to reunite child ex-combatants with their families. Many families have either been killed or forced to flee their homes during a conflict (Gislesen 2006: 34). Even when a child's family has been found there are many challenges facing their acceptance as families often have to be convinced to accept the return of their children (ibid). Many communities reject child ex-combatants based on the atrocities they committed during the conflict, often to their own communities. This was a tactic employed by groups such as the RUF in Sierra Leone in order to ensure their child soldiers have no home to return to if they escaped (ibid) and thus allow them to be re-recruited post-DDR.
Child soldiers often enter demobilisation sites with extensive psychological and physical trauma (Gislesen 2006: 27). The implications on reintegration are therefore complex. As the NCDDR notes, 'Socio-economic reintegration of child combatants is the most critical element of the DDR programme' (ES-NCDDR, 2000: 11). However, despite their ordeals, many child soldiers can be rehabilitated if provided with the correct targeted psychological support. Of course failure to do so could have profound consequences on the security of the child and society as a whole (see MSF, 2000: 5). Therefore, despite being a huge financial and logistical undertaking, it is essential to address the psychosocial needs of child ex-combatants as part of the reintegration process. (Gislesen 2006: 27).
This is not a simple undertaking. As Dyregrov et al. rightly states, 'Diagnosing PTSD is almost meaningless in many countries, because individual treatment is not feasible' (Dyregrov et al 2002: 139). This was evident in Sierra Leone - where there was only one professionally qualified psychiatrist to deal with the numerous cases of PTSD in child ex-combatants (Gbla, 2003: 182). Furthermore, trained professionals where centred in the major cities and were thus inaccessible to the majority of child soldiers from rural areas (Gislesen 2006: 30). This challenge is exacerbated further when one considers 'separated children'. In Sierra Leone, alongside the 7,000 children who participated in DDR, 5,000 children who could not demonstrate knowledge of using a firearm were labelled 'separated children' as opposed to 'child soldiers' (Robertshaw 2006 in Gislesen 2006: 17). These 'separated children' were then re-united with their families without receiving the same psychological rehabilitation available to demobilised child soldiers (Gislesen 2006: 17). This is problematic as it is likely many children involved with armed groups have been reintegrated as 'separated children' and yet have suffered similarly traumatic experiences as child soldiers, without the psychological support (ibid). To overcome this DDR programmes must provide all Children associated with armed groups with psychological rehabilitation. Although this may be financial difficult, it is necessary to ensure the security of both reintegrated children and society as a whole.
There are also challenges regarding the physical trauma child soldiers demobilise with. These include Malnutrition, disease, pregnancy, STIs, drug addictions, and a wide range of physical injuries that all need to be addressed during DDR (Gislesen 2006: 17). West African countries suffer from a serious lack of health care infrastructure to tackle the physical and psychological issues many child soldiers have (ibid). However, processes in Sierra Leone have shown that in the absence of health care professionals, recreational and self-help activities can be effective at combating psychological trauma. Recreational and cultural processes have not only helped address individual children's psychosocial needs but have also helped with community peace building by bringing together various groups (Gislesen 2006: 50).
Clearly there are many challenges facing the success of DDR programmes. In order to overcome these challenges DDR programmes must reform. The majority of conflicts in West Africa have regional implications. Therefore DDR programmes must be coordinated across borders and take these issues into consideration to reduce the cross-border movement of arms and combatants that exacerbate conflicts. 'One man, one gun' is not a sufficient eligibility requirement for disarmament. Although it reduces the availability of weapons during a conflict it does not ensure that all participants of armed groups have access to DDR, such as women and children. There needs to be a universal change in policy to allow child soldiers to demobilize with or without surrendering a weapon. DDR must also account for child soldiers who demobilise as adults. Failure to do this could have potentially destructive consequences for the security of the child and society at large. DDR must be designed to accommodate the infrastructure it is working within. For instance if there is a severe lack of professionally qualified staff to deal with trauma in child ex-combatants then the reintegration phase of DDR must acknowledge this and incorporate other methods of rehabilitation such as the recreational and self-help activities that were successful in Sierra Leone. Overall, In Sierra Leone, there was far more time and money given to the disarmament and demobilisation stages of the DDR programme than the reintegration stage (UNDDR Resource Centre). Consequently the training offered during the reintegration process was not sufficient to provide ex-combatants with the skills needed to be competitive in the labour market. Alongside Sierra Leone's dire economic state, there were few jobs available anyway, let alone for ex-combatants who continued to be discriminated against. To overcome this DDR must secure adequate resources and funding for the reintegration process and provide ex-combatants with the skills they need to reintegrate into civilian society and not simply rejoin the armed groups out of a lack of socio-economic opportunities.
Ultimately DDR focuses on the disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants. However for there to be any possibility of long term peace and stability ex-combatants must be reintegrated into a functioning and well-governed society. Therefore DDR programmes must be implemented alongside other broader post conflict reconstruction frameworks and not simply initiated in a vacuum on their own. Moreover DDR should be accompanied by other relief, resettlement, and rehabilitation programmes focused on a broader context of war-effected populations. These should include local communities, as well as security sector reforms (SSR). There is no doubt that Sierra Leone is one of the more successful examples of how DDR can aid the overall peace process, however, there are still lessons learnt that should be acknowledged by future DDR programmes.