Southern Sudan DDR: Problem and Recommendations Overview

There is a broad range of issues plaguing DDR in Southern Sudan, many of which are adjacent to country-specific problems, causing a panacea effect.

The South Sudan DDR Commission (SSDDRC), Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the government of Sudan had a lack of cohesion, and serious design, implementation, management and expectation problems.  Failing to acknowledge the multiple ongoing conflicts at the time of agreement compromised the DDR process. Neither the SPLM nor the Sudanese government in Khartoum had much interest or capacity to support DDR, due to mistrust and past DDR failures. Massive regional disparity, varying absorption capacity, a highly militarized society and an overall underdeveloped socioeconomic context characterize Sudan due to decades of war.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was not a legitimate basis for demobilization of active duty combatants, armed civilians or Other Armed Groups (OAGs) and disarmament was not included, so small arms and light weapons (SALW) proliferated. The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) could not handle the budget burden disarmament would cost. Ineligible people were receiving benefits because of ineffective verification systems and a fuzzy line between military and civilian life. UNMIS DDR unit was directed to manage much more armed groups than they had originally anticipated. Within the UNMIS DDR unit, consisting of DPKO and UNDP, tensions arose over the best way to handle the situation.

Special interest groups merit mention in the CPA, yet are absent from the Stockholm Policy Review Group documents. The deep gender divide in Sudanese society complicates a DDR process inclusive of women, who have unique needs. To address women, there must be a coordinated approach that includes: implementing a gender-specific DDR process, equity and security, a community focus, equality of choice, and equal access. All DDR activities should include gender training for male ex-combatants, and spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and promote positive behavior change. IDDRP recommends that children and youth DDR time frames be faster, inclusive, and participatory; this reintegration process should be community based. The priorities are demobilizing children fighters within six months and returning them to their families and immediately assisting girls associated with armed groups.

Before the referendum, any more demobilization would have to involve SPLA, SSDDRC and UNMIS to ensure that no ineligible people become part of the DDR process. Developing a legal framework for SALW national control program should be fast-tracked and implemented in tandem with a long-term, cooperative-type ‘weapons-linked-to-development’ program. The post-referendum DDR operation would have to be spearheaded by the new government, supported by international donors and be redesigned with region-specific policy, additional flexibility, realistic expectations, immediate stabilization and support for the political transition process. Considering the socioeconomic environment, economic reintegration should be needs based, special needs groups should have priority and the process must be sensitive to carrying capacity. Dual-targeting would be the best reintegration policy if community support were achievable.

By Gabrielle Belli

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