Central African Republic: Disarmament of former combatants begins

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

BANGUI, 21 June (IRIN) - A weeklong disarmament of 2,000 former combatants began on Saturday in eight districts of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR).

The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process, for a total of 7,565 combatants, will be extended to the rest of the country's provinces this week, officials said.

"I'm not a professional soldier, I joined [President Francois] Bozize's rebellion because I wanted to liberate my country, it's done, I have to hand back my weapon," Jerome Derant-Bozoumna, 40, who served as a "liberator", said on Saturday.

The liberators were non-professional soldiers who joined a rebellion led by Bozize from October 2002 to March 2003. The rebellion ended with Bozize overthrowing former President Ange-Felix Patasse.

The regions most affected by the conflict include Bangui and its surroundings as well as the provinces of Ouham, Ouham-Pende, Nana-Grebizi and Kemo. These are also the places where the DDR will be conducted.

The government launched the US $13-million DDR and community support programme, known by its French acronym PRAC, in December 2004 in the town of Bossangoa in the north.

The programme has four phases: disarmament of ex-combatants and persons viewed as a menace to security and peace; demobilisation and reintegration of the ex-combatants in their communities or host communities; reinforcement of the communities' capacities to accept and welcome the ex-combatants to facilitate their lasting reintegration; and security for development.

"The section [on] support to communities itself has two facets: rehabilitation of infrastructure and creation of income-generating activities," Francois Bucyana, the project's implementation coordinator, told IRIN on Saturday.

Under this phase, infrastructure such as schools, health centres, bridges etc, destroyed during the war, would be rehabilitated.

He said the educational background of the ex-combatants was taken into account and they would be reintegrated them accordingly.

"We lay emphasis on the community approach to reintegration," Jonas Mfouatie, the programme's chief technical adviser, told IRIN on Saturday.

Under the DDR programme, each ex-combatants receives a disarmament kit comprising kitchen utensils such as kettles, plates and cups as well as soap and condoms.

"We assume that the ex-combatant disarmed came out of bush and possesses no basic property, the disarmament kit will help him start afresh," Mfouatie said.

At least 2,000 ex-combatants in Bangui would be disarmed at the end of the process. All disarmed ex-combatants receive disarmament certificates, and they also sign declarations that they henceforth renounced any form of violence and commit themselves to abide by law.


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