A memorandum of understanding was signed this Friday June 1 2007, which will launch a UNDP supported US$3 million DDR (Disarmament Demobilisation and Reinsertion) pilot project for more than 3,000 ex combatants from three armed groups in Ituri district, due to begin in the coming weeks.
The memorandum of understanding for the project, financed by Japan, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the United States, as well as UNDP funds, was signed by UN Deputy Special Representative to the Secretary General in the DRC and UNDP country coordinator Ross Mountain, as well as the DRC Minister of Defense representative Chikez Diemu.
Once the project is officially announced at the local level, the Disarmament and Demobilisation centres, located at Bunia and Kwandroma, will remain open for 60 days to take in those who wish to join the programme.
To benefit from the project, each armed group must submit an exhaustive list of their combatants, seven days before the opening of the transit centres, who will open on day 15 of the project.
Once the lists have been submitted and validated by the national authorities, the combatants that want to join the project must present themselves at disarmament points managed by MONUC and the Military Integration Structure (SMI).
Once disarmed, they will proceed to the transit sites with their disarmament certificates, where they will remain for five days. At the transit centres they will receive a welcome kit comprising of toiletries, and cooking items, and will attend an information session that will give them the option of joining the FARDC (DRC Armed Forces), or to rejoin civilian life.
Form previous experience, UNDP reckons that more than two thirds of the combatants will chose the second option of returning to civilian life. With this option, the participants will receive a once off payment for transport and reintegration of $US 110. They will then be assigned to high intensity manual labour (HIMO) projects in the district, principally road rehabilitation, for a period of three months.
Contrary to prior DDR phases, the renumeration of US$25 per month has been changed into a daily payment of US$2 per day. The aim of the project, according to Fernando Larrauri, UNDP head of post conflict in the DRC, is for a durable reinsertion.
"During the period of three months, the demobilised will be offered various reinsertion possibilities, such as apprenticeships, or help in starting a revenue generating business. After the initial accompaniment period of 12 months they will be autonomous and their insertion will become a reality," he explained.
At the signing, Mr. Mountain said that the programme was intended to benefit not only the ex combatants, but the whole population of Ituri.
This accord allows for a significant stabilisation impact in Ituri, to relaunch the local economy by allowing a freer movement of people and goods, and to reinforce the humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations," he explained.
"The DRC government has demonstrated their will to have a durable reinsertion process in Ituri, as there has been 160 incidents involving combatants in Ituri in the first four months of 2007 alone. We hope that this programme constitutes a new stage for security and prosperity in Ituri," he added.
DRC Minister of Defense representative Chikez Diemu, in addition to thanking the UNDP and the various donors behind the project, said that the programme marks the start of the completion of the DDR process in DR Congo.
"We hope that this collective reinsertion programme will have a long term impact on stability and peace in Ituri. We will insist on a good follow up and evaluation of this programme, which is a new dynamic that will open dialogue and consolidate peace in Ituri which has suffered so much," he said.
With the aim of permitting the DRC government to complete the process of peace in Ituri, the joint commission on security sector reform initiated this project with the recommendation of the immediate entry of the armed groups into the DDR process on November 15, 2006.
A subsequent peace accord was signed on November 29, 2006 between the government and the three armed groups of the FRPI (of Cobra Matata), and the MRC (of Mathieu Ngudjolo). The FNI group commanded by Peter Karim subsequently signed the accord on December 14, 2006.