Angola + 6 more

Conference on disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, stability in Africa to convene in Sierra Leone, 21-23 June

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AFR/1195, PKO/119

NEW YORK, 15 June -- African participants and beneficiaries of programmes for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants will meet in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 21-23 June. Coming from a number of countries undergoing post-war recovery, they will draw on the lessons of their experiences to propose improvements in DDR strategies, discuss them with their international partners, and help build a network of African DDR practitioners.

The conference is being co-organized by the Government of Sierra Leone, and its opening session will be addressed by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, reflecting not only the Government's commitment to the event, but also Sierra Leone's readiness to share its own experiences of DDR and to learn from others elsewhere in Africa. The other co-organizer is the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, headed by Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari. Although Mr. Gambari has just been appointed the UN's new Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, effective 1 July, he too will take an active part in the conference.

While there have been a number of recent conferences, seminars and workshops devoted to strengthening DDR programmes, this one aims primarily to elicit African viewpoints on the complex issues and challenges that such efforts face. As with other peace and development challenges confronting the continent, DDR programmes cannot be fully effective and successful without local African participation at all stages of design and implementation.

The African stakeholders going to Freetown will include government officials, DDR beneficiaries, members of armed forces and former insurgent factions, parties to peace accords, and representatives of host communities, special needs groups (including women and children) and civil society organizations. They will come from countries as diverse as Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, among others. They will share unique perspectives on the importance of situating DDR programmes within specific political, social and economic contexts, as well as ensuring that future undertakings are integrated more centrally within wider peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction efforts, including on a regional scale.

The conference will be held at the Miatta Conference Centre in Freetown. Its opening and closing sessions, during the morning of 21 June and afternoon of 23 June, will be open to the media, as will a final press conference to be held immediately after the conference officially closes.

For further information, contact Andrew Bangali, Conference Planning Committee, Freetown, tel: +232 22 225787, fax: +232 22 225615, e-mail: abangali@justice.com; or Daniel Adekera, Acting Spokesman, United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), tel: +232 22 295136, e-mail: adekera@un.org.