Transitional Demobilization and Reintegration Program
TDRP's regional agenda gets a boost at Brussels meetings
May 19, 2010
TDRP's regional agenda gets a boost at Brussels meetings

Participants in two expert seminars agreed to give the TDRP an important coordination role in the Great Lakes region. The two groups of high level diplomats and DDR experts gathered in Brussels in late April under the auspices of the TDRP. The first group took a reflective look at peace negotiations in the Great Lakes region after Africa's first world war to draw lessons. The second group looked forward at ways to address the foreign armed groups that continue to destabilize the region.

The Transitional Demobilization and Reintegration Program (TDRP) organized two seminars in Brussels on April 29 and 30, 2010. Each event gathered a small group of experts from diverse backgrounds: high level government officials and diplomats, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) practitioners, academics and researchers, NGO and civil society representatives, and representatives from bilateral and multilateral organizations. These first TDRP seminars gave participants the opportunity to reflect on peace negotiations and DDR, to share ideas, and to propose solutions to the seemingly intractable problem of foreign armed groups in the Great Lakes region.

When politics and DDR collide

Caty Clément listens to participants comments after her presentation
Caty Clément

The first event was a historic reflection on the peace negotiations carried out in the Great Lakes region at the end of Africa's first "world war" of the late 90s and early 2000s, in which as much as 11 countries participated directly or indirectly. Numerous agreements were negotiated and signed between governments and warring parties. International diplomacy also played a role. Participants discussed the incentives, whether political or economic, for armed groups to disarm voluntarily. What could motivate the rank and file to lay down their arms? How were these motivations different for commanders and mid-level officers? How did development practitioners interact with political leaders and diplomats? After peace agreements were signed, how did political considerations impact the implementation of DDR

"There is much to learn from the process that took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Even if no two countries or conflicts are exactly alike, understanding how politics, including peace negotiations, impact DDR implementation is extremely useful," says Caty Clément, Head of Conflict and Peacebuilding Programme at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

Capturing past experience for learning

Two publications will be derived from the seminar:

  • A short dissemination note summarizing the main points from the meeting and providing guidance on engagement and mediation with armed groups, with a particular focus on DDR;
  • A chapter into a World Bank legacy publication on the Multi-country Demobilization and Reintegration Program (MDRP), which documents the experience of the program in attempting to contribute to peace and security in the Great Lakes region over the last decade.

"Best briefing on the FDLR I ever received."*

During the second day, participants discussed foreign armed groups, with a focus on the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) active in the east of the DRC. The rebel group issued from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda still causes instability in that part of Congo. Many stakeholders are providing some response to the problem, but there is a clear lack of coordination among them.

Anton Baaré, Maria Correia and Bruno Donat discuss the agenda of the day.

Anton Baaré, Maria Correia and Bruno Donat discuss
the agenda of the day.

"This was precisely the purpose of that seminar: to bring to light the current actions from the international community, address gaps, and propose a framework for action in which roles and responsibilities of the various actors would be clearly defined. A key next step is to further engage with the governments of the region, especially those of the DRC and Rwanda," says Bruno Donat, Policy and Planning Officer at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), DDR Section, who co-chaired the meeting alongside the TDRP.

Improved international cooperation

Participants agreed to work more closely on the problem of the FDLR and jointly support initiatives aimed at the demobilization and repatriation of this and other foreign armed groups in eastern DRC. The TDRP, as a regional facility with links to demobilization and reintegration programs in the region, will assist this improved cooperation and coordination.

Addressing the LRA

Many other armed groups roam the Great Lakes region, in particular the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda. Even if its numbers are smaller than the FDLR, the LRA's gruesome tactics, continued harassment of populations and forced enrollment of children make it impossible to ignore. A coordinated strategy is also urgently needed, and the TDRP will convene shortly another meeting of experts to discuss appropriate responses to the LRA.

"The TDRP, however small, can play a role in pulling together the various actors in this fight and in providing important technical assistance," says Maria Correia, TDRP Program Manager. "This is exactly the regional coordinating role that our program can play".

 

* According to a meeting participants. The two seminars were held under Chatham House rules (i.e. no attribution of comments made during the meetings).

 

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