Transitional Demobilization and Reintegration Program
On the Road to Reconstruction: Somalia looks to African neighbor Rwanda for demobilization and reintegration lessons
April 5th, 2015

Since the early 1990s, Somalia has experienced cycles of violence that fragmented the country, destroyed legitimate institutions, and created widespread vulnerability. However recent security gains made by the Federal Government and the African Union have brought stability and a hope that Somalia is finally turning the page. Slowly but surely, members of the Somali diaspora are returning, and national reconstruction and reconciliation are the top priorities of the Federal Government in Mogadishu. Many observers call the transition a genuine break with the past, and the best opportunity for stability the country has had in the last two decades.

The processes of national reconciliation and peace building will bring a whole new set of challenges, especially given the easy access to weapons and presence of armed groups in Somalia. Guided by the Somali Compact - an overarching strategic framework for coordinating political, security, and development efforts for peace and state-building activities – the Government is implementing the National Programme for Disengaging Combatants, which establishes a “comprehensive process through which fighters can disengage in conformity with international law and human rights and provides targeted reintegration support”.

Traditionally known as DDR - Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration – such programs are implemented to contribute to security and stability in post-conflict environments so that recovery and development can begin. Given the tenuous security situation in Somalia, the government is advancing with caution: while it is not implementing a traditional DDR program, it is doing the preparatory work, focusing its efforts primarily on building capacity and the technical expertise of its institutions.

One of the ways in which Somalia is seeking to overcome these new challenges is through knowledge exchanges with countries that have faced similar crises. Twenty years after a civil war and genocide, Rwanda has obtained stability and security at home, in part due a remarkably successful DDR program. In an effort to help Somalia learn from Rwanda’s experience, the World Bank initiated a “Knowledge and Experience Exchange Study Tour” enabling a delegation consisting of Somali officials from the Federal Ministry of Interior and National Security, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) to visit Rwanda and its Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC).

“It is very encouraging to see that Rwanda has implemented such a difficult program with great success. Rwanda was confronted with similar challenges such as institutional capacity and lack of financial and technical resources to those that we face today, and we are convinced that learning from their experiences will help us,” noted Mr. Said Sudi, the Director of Somalia National Programme for Disengaged Combatants.

The delegation embarked on a dynamic five-day workshop coupled with site visits to a number of DDR centers. Led by the RDRC, Rwanda’s agency for implementing demobilization and reintegration efforts, the study tour allowed the participants to have a bird’s eye view of Rwanda’s demobilization program.

Following a visit of several agriculture and livestock cooperatives jointly managed and worked by ex-combatants and community members, the participants were able to sit down with the former combatants themselves to understand firsthand their experiences.

*H.E. Zahra Samatar was appointed as the Minister of Women and Human Rights Development in January 2015.


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