DDRed in Liberia: Youth Remarginalisation or Reintegration?
This report questions mainstream approaches to the reintegration of youthful ex-combatants. In Liberia, the disarmament and demobilisation was implemented quite effectively, but several questions can be asked about the components of reintegration and rehabilitation in the DDR-process. Most ex-combatants are currently unemployed or underemployed as the programmes initiated first and foremost prepared them for jobs that did not exist. The programmes also worked from the assumption that wartime experiences, networks and command structures had to be broken down as they were seen as counterproductive to peace and reconciliation. Drawing on previous research in Liberia the hypothesis is that reintegration can better be achieved through peaceful remobilisation that allows the ex-combatants to make use of the skills, experiences and networks gained through the war. This is illustrated by the recent experience of a nightwatch patrol in Voinjama in Lofa County that was based on rank and command structure from the war which responded to local community demands and filled a security vacuum. This is an alternative path to reintegration that needs further analysis, and the article argued that this should be based on the premises of a genuine understanding of the background of Liberia’s young ex-combatants and the nature and form of their involvement in violent conflict. Many people were involved in the war, but most only fought for certain periods. The motivations for joining varied, but the collected data from our various studies shows that security considerations were among the most important factors. Most combatants were ordinary people who joined for the sake of protection for themselves, their families and their communities. DDR in Liberia, as elsewhere, is, however, built on the assumption that there is something particularly dangerous and marginalised about the group of people who constituted the rank-and-file of the factions involved in the war. This is, as we have seen, not necessarily the case. DDR is very much a reaction to the notion that these people are unattached to society, set apart in their own world, and therefore needs particular attention. The article will therefore suggests that DDR approaches are in dire need of a rethinking that links them more directly to programmes aimed at social cohesion and societal security.
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