Demilitarisation essential to lasting peace
17 October 2003
In Afghanistan, progress is underway on programs to demilitarise, demobilize and reintegrate (DDR) former soldiers.
Since the fall of the Taliban regime in October 2001, heavily armed war lords and militia have formed criminal gangs and armed bands giving rise to factionalist fighting throughout the country. Tensions amongst those vying for land are prolonging the fighting and outbreaks of violence are common. Criminal activities have also increased as many former soldiers continue to use force to derive income.
The factionalist violence has led to an increased focus on disarming local militias that have been engaged in arbitrary violence throughout Afghanistan. A pilot DDR program aimed at disarming approximately 1,000 former soldiers in the province of Kunduz is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks. Other areas to be targeted include Gardez in the south east, Mazar-i-sharif in the north and Kabul. If successful, the program will be extended to cover Khandahar in southern Afghanistan. It is anticipated that as many as 100,000 soldiers will be DDRd over the next 3 years.
UMCOR is preparing to take a role in the reintegration of these former soldiers by providing job training and income generating activities thus ensuring legitimate and sustainable livelihoods. Our past success in Sierra Leone demonstrates that DDR programs are effective and essential to lasting peace.
Why is DDR critical to lasting peace in Afghanistan?
Many areas in the north of Afghanistan have been devastated by 23 years of conflict and five years of drought. These regions are home to a diverse population including Turkmans, Tajiks, Pashtuns, Hazara, Uzbak, Baloch and Arab peoples which has led to factionalist fighting among tribes and villages since the fall of the Taliban regime.
Past interventions have been moderately successful. Refugees have opted to return in their thousands although they remain in harm's way and vulnerable to the recurring violence of militias engaged in conflicts. The large numbers of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) still resident in these areas are an additional factor in the rise of tensions. Returnees compete with IDPs and militia for scarce resources. Some improvement in security has led to the increased returns, but the absence of real income for returnees and former combatants alike will only prolong, and perhaps increase, the on-going factionalist conflict in these areas. Therefore, UMCOR advocates for donor resources that meet the real needs of both IDPs and the returning populations, with a focus on reintegrating former soldiers.
Training provided to former combatants in the reintegration phase of the DDR project will support the long-term development goals of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, encouraging self-reliance through local ownership and the reestablishment and expansion of private sector capacity to generate growth through an appropriate enabling environment. The reestablishment and improvement of agricultural activities, for example, will not only strengthen the position of the State but will also create better conditions for individual returnees and their communities. Training former soldiers in agriculture techniques and other skills-related work will enable them to build self-sustaining businesses and achieve self-sufficiency.
UMCOR's past experience in other war-torn countries will benefit the Afghani process of ensuring lasting peace, accelerating reconstruction and enabling the rehabilitation of this once great country.
Text by Warren Harrity, Head of Mission for UMCOR Afghanistan