Sudan’s Second Civil War and DDR Attempt: Focusing on Special Needs Groups

Sudan is the largest country in Africa and one of the poorest in the world, despite the abundance of valuable natural resources it has. More than 20 years of civil war has destroyed the country’s economy and infrastructure, leaving devastation in its wake. A UN report from 2005 estimated that 20 percent of the population had been displaced and left severely impoverished (United Nations. Interim DDR Programme for Sudan. July 2005). It was in 2005 that a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SLPM/A), the two major warring factions, to end the war.

The much needed and long awaited CPA came after decades of a second round of violent conflict know as the Second Civil War, which raged from 1983 through 2004. The first civil war in Sudan took place from 1955 to 1972 and was marked by conflict between the north and the south. The Addis Ababa Agreement (also known as the Addis Ababa Accords) was signed in 1972 and marked the beginning of 11 years of relative peace. However, the Agreement failed to relieve tensions between the north and the south. The reintegration of the Anyanya, a southern Sudanese rebel army, was a complete failure. Mounting tensions and the failure of the reintegration of Anyanya ex-combatants along with other factors such as unequal access to the country’s rich natural resources (namely oil), and ethnic and religious divides are suspected to be the cause of Sudan’s second civil war.

It is in cases like this that we can see how the failure to design and implement a rigorous, detailed and conflict-specific disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) plan can have catastrophic consequences for a country. In Sudan’s case, the country plunged into another volatile civil war which killed roughly 2 million people and displaced another 4.5 million. The DDR plan following the CPA of the second civil war needed to be flexible and accommodating in a heterogeneous environment. The delicate handling of special needs groups such as women, children and the disabled along with other armed groups (OAGs) that contributed to the fighting needed to be taken into consideration when designing the DDR, especially the reintegration portion. This is because many of the ‘special’ groups would only be taking part in either the demobilization and reintegration or only the reintegration part of the plan. In the interest of keeping this post on the shorter side, I will only speak briefly about two special needs groups: women and children.

The CPA specified that special needs groups were to be addressed before all other ex-combatants. The DDR outlined the demobilization of child ex-combatants first before any adults. Even within this special needs group there were sub groups that needed even more specialized attention such as girls and girl mothers. Previous DDR attempts that addressed child soldiers failed to recognize the difficult situation girls and girl mothers faced in conflict and when attempting to return home. The CPA and DDR plan understood that this couldn’t be repeated with Sudan’s second DDR attempt, so specific conditions were laid out for these groups.

A few distinctions of the child DDR plan were to focus on child protection and to also include children in the process who had not been directly involved in the conflict, which is an interesting approach. The child DDR extended to other vulnerable children such as child IDPs (internally displaced persons) and child refugees returning from other countries. It also created special methods of protection and reintegration for girls specifically. The child DDR used some of the basic principles in the UN’s IDDRS including taking a community-based approach to reintegration. The collaboration between community groups, religious leaders, educators, youth groups, and families coupled with several years of follow-up was essential to the success of child ex-combatant reintegration.

Another special needs group addressed by the CPA and DDR was women. Although men are typically seen as the major threat to security in a post-conflict setting, women in the case of Sudan were seen as a secondary threat, but a threat nonetheless. Excluding women from DDR would have undermined the entire process and could have potentially caused a threat to Sudan’s future peace and stability. Women took on many different roles during the second civil war, making it harder to create tailored methods of DDR for the various sub groups within the women special needs group. Some women were combatants and fought on the front lines while others took on supporting roles such as porters, cooks, caretakers, messengers, and more – these women providing supporting roles either voluntarily or through coercion are known as women associated with the armed forces and groups (WAAFG).

Other women were indirectly involved by way of their husbands who were combatants. These women were considered dependents of ex-combatants and would also need to be included in the reintegration portion of DDR alongside their husbands. In Sudan polygamy is common and it was possible that combatants had more than one wife, further complicating DDR for dependents. The DDR plan had to be flexible enough to accommodate these special and sensitive situations. Other women were abducted and forced into the armed groups, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) became pervasive. Rape, prostitution, forced marriage, and sexual abuse further complicated the reintegration of women back into society. These complications needed to be specifically addressed in the reintegration of women and WAAFG in order for a successful outcome to be realized.

Women also had a large role to play after male ex-combatants went through the DDR process; women made up the majority of support for ex-combatants upon their return home. However, the women themselves had little support, which undermined their ability to provide adequate support to the ex-combatants (United Nations. Interim DDR Programme for Sudan. July 2005). Major community-based support and assistance from government agencies and NGOs would have been beneficial not only to the women but also to the ex-combatants they were supporting and to the entire community.

The reintegration portion of Sudan’s second DDR attempt utilized many of the same tactics that other DDR programs used such as monetary packages for transportation, food, and family support, health and psychological care, skills and vocational training, and education. However, what sets Sudan apart from other DDR programs are the carefully designed reintegration mechanisms catering to the special needs groups as well as the ex-combatants. In brief these include but are not limited to monetary packages for ex-combatants with varying amounts according to their rank held, vouchers for WAAFG to use in the community, thereby regenerating local economies, particular attentions paid to girls and girl mothers, the establishment of child protection networks, targeted catch-up education for child ex-combatants, the development of alternative family/living arrangements for child ex-combatants lacking family (or where family cannot be located), the inclusion of non-combat related children in the reintegration process, reintegration methods for women that were sensitive to the practice of polygamy,  HIV/AIDs awareness campaigns, and violence against women (VAW) awareness campaigns. The more detailed, flexible, culture-sensitive, and conflict-specific a DDR plan can be, the likelihood for a successful outcome will be greater.

By Ashley Dale

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