Ex-combatants demobilization wraps up in Sudan: UN

Thousands of former fighters have taken part in the first phase of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme, marking a key milestone for the 2005 agreement that ended Sudan’s north-south civil war, the UN peacekeeping mission in the country reported.
The last of over 5600 ex-combatants earmarked for demobilization were processed yesterday in the first phase of the DDR scheme in Blue Nile state, in Sudan`s east, according to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which celebrated the achievement in a brief ceremony.
It is hoped that eventually as many as 180 000 ex-combatants across Sudan will be demobilized under the DDR scheme, UN News Centre reports.
The joint North and South Sudan DDR commissions, along with UNMIS, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme and the World Health Organization, are assisting with the process in Blue Nile.
The DDR initiative seeks to ensure that demobilized combatants are properly reintegrated into civilian life, receiving packages including livestock and vocational training. Monitoring is also a crucial component to prevent former fighters from sliding back into violence.
The DDR commissions have agreed to jointly process caseloads in Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan and Abyei, before expanding to other areas under the 2005 pact, known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Other key benchmarks of the treaty include border demarcation and preparations for national elections in 2010 and a referendum on the final status of areas of southern Sudan in 2011.
One-third of ex-combatants demobilized in Blue Nile have already started receiving counseling as a first step to reintegrate into civilian life.
Up to 180 000 former fighters from the Sudan Armed Forces, Popular Defence Forces and Sudan People`s Liberation Army will be demobilized, and the first stages will target mostly those with special needs, including the old and infirm, as well as women and children associated with armed forces or groups.
The multi-year scheme is being led jointly by the DDR commissions, with financial and technical support from the UN.
But UNMIS pointed out that funding continues to be a major challenge. Some $430 million (R3513 million) is required over three years, but only $88 million (R719 million) was pledged at the last donor conference held in Juba earlier this year.
In a related development, the UN welcomed the donation of 22 vehicles by the European Commission, which will be used by the DDR commissions to help monitor participants transition into civilian life.
“The progress made in the past year on DDR has become one of the success stories of CPA implementation,” UNDP Country Director Jorgen Lissner said at a ceremony in the capital, Khartoum.
The cars will be used to allow case workers to cover areas of reintegration and provide logistical support for the daily operations of the commissions.

Pic: UNMIS troops from Kenya in North Sudan