Demobilisation bodies from the three member states of the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) are in talks to address the problem of demobilised soldiers rejoining militia groups in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
CEPGL is made up of Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC.
Efforts by member countries to uproot the problem have constantly been thwarted by the return to the jungles of re-integrated militias who continue to destabilise the region.
Speaking at the opening of a two-day meeting that brought together demobilisation commissions from the three countries, the Executive Secretary of CEPGL, Herman Tuyaga, said that partnership among the three countries is inevitable if the region is to engender everlasting peace.
“We have a shared responsibility to see that demobilised soldiers in our countries settle back into civilian life. There is a lot member countries have to do in form of sharing information and best practices to see that the programmes become successful,” said Tuyaga.
He explained that whereas some member countries are doing well in retaining the demobilised soldiers, there are others still lagging behind leading to the birth of militia groups within the region.
Tuyaga singled out the RDC as an example where many demobilised soldiers go back to the jungles to carry out subversive activities and who sometimes even target other member states after facing difficulties.
“It is not easy to re-integrate a soldier who has lived a jungle life for over a decade. But member countries should look for a lasting solution to the problem through exchange of ideas,” he said.
In an interview with The New Times, Jean Sayinzoga, the chairperson of Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC), reiterated the importance of collaboration among the commissions to address the issue.
He pointed out the need to combine policies and learn from one another how to handle the issue.
“We will have to think about joint projects that will help demobilised soldiers fully re-integrate in their communities,” said Sayinzoga.
He observed that the most important components towards the successful integration of former soldiers is building trust, helping them get a livelihood and regular follow ups to ascertain their progress.
Current statistics in the country indicate that over 66,000 soldiers and 791 ex-child soldiers have been demobilised since the commission was established in 1997.
The number includes soldiers from Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) and the former government (Ex-FAR).
To enable them lead better lives and integrate into society, RDRC sponsored 4,378 ex-combatants to undergo vocational skills while 1,497 were enrolled for formal education in schools and universities.