The hesitant implementation of what seemed to be a rather thorough, well designed DDR strategy in Sudan reflects some of the core challenges that several 2nd generation DDR programs have in common. Although the two main parties to the conflict, namely the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), initially agreed on the establishment of a DDR program upon the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, skepticism remained. For good reason, though, as the country lay in shambles – morally and economically – after a 20-year civil that resulted in 2 million deaths, 4.5 million displaced persons as well as a terrifying increase in gender-based and sexual violence and abductions of girls and women in particular.
The key objective was to build an “incremental, integrated and manageable DDR programming process” (Interim DDR Program for Sudan. United Nations. July 2005) while at the same time enabling institutional capacities to grow in order to guarantee national ownership of the DDR process and the subsequent security sector reform (SSR). The 2nd generation DDR approach constitutes a shift away from military structures towards the community as a whole and is particularly concerned with bridging the gap between the demobilization and reintegration phase. It therefore calls for immediate post-conflict stabilization measures, such as emergency employment programs, and targets specific groups, including militias, commanders and senior officers, female combatants and women associated with armed groups (WAAG), at-risk youth and gangs.
The initial DDR plan for Sudan follows most of the principles suggested in the IDDRS. Under its guiding principles it lists “national ownership” with the aim to include all stakeholders. It promotes a community-driven approach since communities are the main beneficiaries of improved security and calls for gender-sensitive and inclusive strategies. It further emphasizes the “Do No Harm” principle, highlights the need to build and strengthen capacities at all levels and aims at greater flexibility in order to quickly adapt to changing field conditions. Most importantly, it targets different groups, including child combatants, women combatants, women associated with armed groups, disabled veteran combatants, and issues such as HIV/AIDS and the proliferation of SALWs.
However, the implementation of Sudan’s ambitious DDR program came to a slow start. Some voices even claim that it failed altogether due to a lack of commitment of political key actors to down-size the military and push for SSR as well as coordination issues between the newly established DDR institutions, the parties to the conflict, and UNMIS. Some of the common challenges that 2nd generation DDR programs face ring definitely true in the case of Sudan, i.e. the aforementioned lack of political will, inadequate links between DDR and SSR (namely questions of how to include irregular armed groups, militias and gangs into the peace process while weapons still circulate), economic insecurity, and failing integration and coordination mechanisms between different entities. In the case of Sudan, the various armed groups that are not included in the peace agreement act indeed as spoilers due to low incentives to disarm.
In order to move forward, the Government of Sudan has to ensure that all former armed rebel groups are involved in the DDR process, stressing the “national ownership” aspect of DDR. A “weapons-linked-to-development” approach can increase cohesion among communities and their willingness to welcome back former combatants. Choosing the right reinsertion measures is crucial to the success of any DDR program. In Sudan the traditional safety net consists of cash grant and material goods, such as food vouchers and non-food items. However, the package as it is provides too little incentive to demobilize. Logistical problems in regards to the transportation of goods have also arisen and the heavily subsidized food packages leave local farmers uncompetitive. Hence, most importantly, any DDR strategy must be tied to the overall economic policies advancing employment opportunities for ex-combatants in order for them to create a livelihood. This can include measures such as start-up grants, microloans, and vocational training.
Ultimately, the role of women in armed conflict and their potential to act as spoilers if not included in DDR processes needs to be highlighted. The role of female combatants has long been overlooked since many women fighters are not officially recruited and enter through more informal channels. A sound policy therefore is to separate disarmament from access to demobilization and to particularly include WAAFG, which the Sudan DDR mission tries nicely, in the process. Gender-sensitive measures, such as employing female staff in reinsertion camps and providing training on gender sensitivity and issues of gender-based and sexual violence for DDR personnel, are mandatory.
By Nadine Lainer