Background Briefing

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Reintegration of Ex-Combatants 

Perhaps the single greatest threat to continued stability in Liberia is the failure to ensure that the thousands of former fighters are effectively reintegrated into their communities. A large mass of idle frustrated ex-combatants are vulnerable for re-recruitment into another armed conflict as well as likely to participate in criminal or other destabilizing activities in Liberia.104

The failure to properly reintegrate ex-combatants could potentially cause civil unrest in Liberia which could, in turn, be exploited by individuals intent on destabilizing the electoral process or the efforts of the newly elected government. In January 2005, there were riots after the Liberian Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration Programme (DDRR) failed to cover the school fees of some 4,000 ex-combatants enrolled in secondary schools.  In May 2005, thousands of ex-fighters rioted in the northern town of Ganta to demand the payment of the second tranche of their $300 resettlement allowance.105

Under the reintegration program, which was part of the DDRR program, ex-combatants were to be provided with the opportunity to acquire basic skills “to support themselves and to participate in the community reconstruction process.”106 Ex-combatants were to select one of four training programs: formal education, vocational training, public works, or agriculture/livestock/fishing.107

The success of the reintegration program is threatened by the failure of donor governments to commit the requisite funds for the rehabilitation and training component of the program. Currently, there is a funding shortfall of $10 million needed to cover the reintegration of some 43,000 ex-combatants.108 Although the disarmament part of the program was funded through assessed U.N. contributions, the reintegration program was funded through donations managed through a trust fund.

One of the causes of the funding shortfall was the gross underestimation of the number of combatants. Although 38,000 combatants were expected to participate in the DDRR process, the total number of disarmed and demobilized combatants was 101,495.109 The program has been criticized for not having strict enough admittance criteria, a factor that may have contributed to the inflation of the registration numbers.

The long wait between disarmament and entrance into a job training or education program leaves ex-combatants vulnerable for re-recruitment into another armed conflict and could contribute to the destabilization of neighboring West African countries. Scores of Liberian ex-combatants interviewed by Human Rights Watch in July 2004 and March 2005 said they had been approached to fight in conflicts in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea. Among those approached to fight in Guinea, about half had been approached by commanders claiming to represent a fledgling Guinean insurgency, and the other half by those claiming to be supporters of Guinean President Lansana Conté.110 According to interviews with Liberian fighters near the Liberian border with Côte d’Ivoire, hundreds of recently demobilized combatants, including children, have since at least November 2004 been re-recruited to fight in Côte d’Ivoire. The majority, according to their reports, went to fight alongside militias associated with the Ivorian government. They described two periods of intense recruitment: in October 2004, just prior to an Ivorian government offensive against the rebel-held north, and in the beginning of March 2005, in anticipation—according to their reports—of future attacks on rebel-held positions.111

However, while successful disarmament programs are crucial to reintegration of ex-combatants back into society, they should not be expected to bear the entire burden of creating social stability following an armed conflict.  Far-reaching efforts must also be made to provide for parallel community development programs assisting the general population whose lives, communities and villages were destroyed during armed conflict. Furthermore, the Liberian government must do all it can to minimize the siphoning off of public funds and donated monies meant for national development by unscrupulous and corrupt officials.

[104] See “Youth, Poverty and Blood: The Lethal Legacy of West Africa’s Regional Warriors,” A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 17, no. 5(A), April 2005.

[105] IRIN, “UN Admits Funding Shortage for rehabilitation After Ex-Fighters Riot,” Monrovia, May 13, 2005.

[106] “Liberian Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration Programme: Strategy and Implementation Framework,” prepared by the Draft Interim Secretariat, Monrovia, October 31, 2003, p. 28.

[107] Ibid.

[108] IRIN, “Liberia: UN still needs $10 million for ex-combatants,” Monrovia, June 10, 2005.

[109] United Nations, “Sixth Progress Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Liberia,” S/2005/177, March 17, 2005, p. 5.

[110] See “Youth, Poverty and Blood: The Lethal Legacy of West Africa’s Regional Warriors,” A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 17, no. 5(A), April 2005.

[111] See “Côte D’Ivoire: Ex-Child Soldiers Recruited for War,” Human Rights Watch Press Release, March 30, 2005, available at:

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