“DDR” the bridge between post-conflict reconstruction and development in South Sudan

William Deng Deng,

Chairperson of the National DDR Commission

In their own words, ex-combatants currently receiving reinsertion support (training) in Mapel transition facility

(a) Joseph Yai Kiir, an ex-combatant who is currently, attending lessons in Mapel Transition Facility Upper Literary Class had this to say: “When I was in the military, I did not know about the DDR Programme. After the peace (CPA), I was discharged from the operation front to the Disability Unit and was there for five years.  In September 2012, we were informed that the National DDR Programme targeted able-bodied soldiers”. Joseph, whose formal education was interrupted by the war hence dropped out of school at Senior Two further added; “I think if DDR could equip me with all the knowledge and skills in the livelihood option of my choice, I will improve my standard of life and live comfortably as a civilian. I have been here for only a few weeks and already feel that I am gaining knowledge and skills. Now after three months, I think I will have learned a lot! If such activities to give people knowledge and skills continue, our country will surely develop. As people use their knowledge and skills to improve their livelihoods, conflict will reduce among the tribes and the nation at large, hence peace and stability will be restored”.

(b) "I think DDR is an Organization that South Sudan Government formed to give us knowledge we do not have. Now I have acquired knowledge and practical skills which will help me to improve my life. This is what I need." (Matur Riak Machar, Ex-combatant who dropped out of Senior Three)

(c) Lueth Mayin Waath, another ex-combatant had this to say:

"I think DDR is a good programme that everyone should participate in. We have accepted the programme and remain committed to achieve its objectives. Thanks to DDR Commission, we are extremely happy for the job well-done."

We now have Payam Administrator’s office and a detention cell, which structures will enhance our administration of law and order in Mapel Payam. The police who have been sitting under trees will now have decent offices to work from. This will motivate them to perform their duties. With a proper police cell, criminals will now be detained as required. All this will contribute to controlling the rate of crime in the area and promote law enforcement,’ says David Denin Lual, Mapel Boma Administrator, obviously pleased with the infrastructural developments through the Reinsertion Project of the National DDR Programme.

The Republic of South Sudan has at last launched its National Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme (NDDRP) which is a unique social-political-economic programme with far reaching national impact.

In many other countries, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes are implemented for Other Armed Groups (OAG) as part of a peace settlement with their national governments. In South Sudan we are disarming and demobilizing our national liberators, the heroes and heroines that wrought our national independence after four decades of bloody struggle with Khartoum Government.

Through DDR we are transforming military liberators into a powerful civilian work force for development of our communities and nation. Indeed, having achieved our glorious national independence, we no longer need a large standing army. Instead, we need a lean professional army with formidable military capability which is more strategic in the 21st Century, and thus is a major and critical objective of Republic of South Sudan’s Security Sector Reform.

The National DDR Programme is at the core of Republic of South Sudan’s security sector reform strategies for rightsizing the over-sized national army and other organized forces/services. The excess number of soldiers and combatants that are being shed off remain a very valuable human resource that will be transformed into ‘fighters’ for poverty eradication in South Sudan. The Government does not take lightly the gallant liberators’ apparent loss of livelihood and income. Therefore in demonstrating duty of care towards them, Government has carefully designed the National DDR programme to support their smooth transition into civilian life including securing sustainable alternative livelihoods and incomes. In other words, once disarmed and demobilized, the journey to civilian life begins for ex-combatants and the National DDR Commission hand-walks them for a year through this life-long journey which entails two phases of support – reinsertion and reintegration.

It is a commitment that the Government and the people of South Sudan are committed to as part of their national duty to honour our gallant liberators.

“Reinsertion” support is a short-term (up to three months) interim assistance offered to ex-combatants and their reception communities while they await longer term (nine months) reintegration assistance.  Reinsertion support provides short-term opportunities for learning new knowledge, attitudes, skills, behavior, vocations and even entrepreneurship – amongst others. It also includes opportunities for wage-paying employments for ex-combatants and their communities of return while also developing their communities’ basic social and economic infrastructure e.g. schools, road, health facilities, bridges, markets, boreholes etc.

Reinsertion support comprises preparatory vocational, life-skills and psychosocial support training of ex-combatants in Transition Facilities as well as community-based labour intensive projects in communities of return targeting both ex-combatants and community members. Through the labour intensive community-based reinsertion support, the community’s absorptive capacity is enhanced easing the strain on existing social and economic resources. The communities are better placed to receive, accommodate and support returnee ex-combatants and other new arrivals such as former refugees, internally displaced persons and South Sudanese national returning from Sudan. In this regard therefore, reinsertion support in itself is a dividend of the National DDR programme for the communities of ex-combatants’ return.

The National DDR Programme plans to build and develop ten residential Transition Facilities (DDR Training Centers) one in each of the ten States of South Sudan. Towards this end, it has commenced with one each in the greater regions of South Sudan: Mapel Transition Facility in Western Bahr el Ghazal State; Torit Transition Facility in Eastern Equatoria State, and Pariak Transition Facility in Jonglei State. Mapel Transition Facility has been completed and the other two are still under construction.

Thanks to United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)’ financial and technical support, the National DDR Programme has committed at least USD$1.374 Million (SSP 4,193,200) for 15 community-based and labour intensive pilot projects in the hinterland of Pariak, Mapel, and Torit Transition Facilities.  The projects are in the areas of construction/rehabilitation of public infrastructure, crop production and brick making, and in the process temporarily employing approximately 660 community members and offering them daily wages.

Mapel Payam, has witnessed a face-lift with brand new infrastructures developments by the National DDR Programme: Mapel Transition Facility with a residential capacity of 500 people; Mapel Payam Administrator’s Office; a Police Detention Facility; Mapel Market and a Catering Center for the Transition Facility all investments worth at least USD$ 2.267 Million. It is expected that these developments will enhance the enforcement of basic rule of law and also stimulate the local economy in Mapel Payam.

Transition Facility (DDR Training Centre): This is a training center where up to 500 ex-combatants will be full-time residential for three months to undergo a carefully designed programme for demilitarization and acquisition of vocational and business skills as well as life skills and psychosocial support education critical for successful transition to civilian life. The battle for life is won first in the mind before it is manifested in other visible dimensions of life.

Therefore the mindset of these former ex-combatants is critical and paramount. With the assistance of trained psychosocial counselors, ex-combatants are assisted to come to terms with the fact they are no longer military personnel but civilians! The life skills and psychosocial support education covers topic such as changing perspective from military to civilian; health and hygiene, managing emotions, civic education, human rights, individual and group conflict management, psychosocial well-being and functioning; anger management, alcohol abuse prevention and awareness etc. They are also taught functional literacy and numeracy skills as well as exposed to various options of marketable civilian trades (e.g. metal fabrication, electronics, mechanics, horticulture, small business etc.), and then offered basic training in their chosen trades.

The basic trade training includes training in entrepreneurship as well as how to form, operate and manage business cooperatives in any sector.  Skilled trainers use very animating adult teaching and learning methodologies. Once out of formal classes, the ex-combatants are treated to a diverse menu of fun extra curriculum activities such as sports, cultural dances among many others which are first relaxing but also educational.

As part of reinsertion support, the Government will continue to pay ex-combatants 70% of their monthly salary while at the training center. At the end of transient period, the ex-combatants will have come to terms with their change of status from military to civilians, acquired and internalized a civilian mindset and identified a gainful civilian livelihood to pursue. Some of them will have formed entrepreneurial cooperatives to create and or seek lucrative employment opportunities.  In other words, ex-combatants leave the transitional facility reconstructed in their minds and skills sets and ready to embrace, thrive and assimilate in the civilian world.

Through the National DDR Programme now launched, the national military services have begun the eight year-long effort to reduce their bloated sizes and free up national budget resources for reallocation to national development. The reinsertion programme is improving community infrastructure, infusing cash into local economies and improving community access to basic social and economic services.

The Transition Facilities (DDR Training Centers) which in themselves present an infrastructural improvement for rural communities, infuse cash into local markets, are reconstructing the minds and skills sets of ex-combatants and releasing them into local economies as a productive work force. The establishment of sustainable integrated villages for ex-combatants will provide a safety net for severely disabled ex-combatants whilst also contributing to infrastructural development, infusing cash into the economy and improving local access to basic social and economic services.