SIERRA LEONE: IRIN Special Report on Demobilisation [19990713]

SIERRA LEONE: IRIN Special Report on Demobilisation [19990713]

SIERRA LEONE: IRIN Special Report on Demobilisation

FREETOWN, 12 July 1999 (IRIN) - The successful implementation of a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme is an essential part of the peace process in Sierra Leone, political and military observers in Freetown say.

"The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process is the crux to achieving lasting peace," Major Jim Gray, UNOMSIL's military spokesman in Freetown, told IRIN.

The peace agreement signed on 7 July by the government and the RUF contains a provision stating that "a neutral peace keeping force comprising UNOMSIL and ECOMOG" shall disarm all combatants of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) and paramilitary groups.

The agreement states that this process shall start within 6 weeks of the signing of the agreement in line with the deployment of the neutral peace-keeping force. It also provides for the payment of retirement benefits and other emoluments to former members of the SLA.

A multidonor trust fund for contributions to the DDR programme was opened some time ago by the World Bank. The United Kingdom has pledged US $10 million and the World Bank US $9.1 million towards the programme, whose cost has been estimated at US $33 million to US $35 million.

Sullay Sesay, reintegration officer for the government's National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration, told IRIN that, for planning purposes, the government was using a figure of 33,000 ex-combatants: 25,000 in the CDF, 7,000 from the SLA and 1,000 in the RUF.

Sesay acknowledged that these figures, based on estimates made in June 1998, were too low, especially those related to the RUF and, in particular, the Kamajors, the largest component of the CDF whose numbers were swollen by a massive recruitment drive in the south since January 1999.

Prior to the peace agreement, the DDR programme was limited to 2,974 SLA soldiers who served under the military junta that ruled in alliance with the RUF following a coup that overthrew President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in May 1997. The soldiers have been in reorientation camps since ECOMOG ousted the junta and restored Tejan Kabbah to power in February 1998.

A total of 763 have been discharged so far. Before being released the soldiers received a "pre-discharge orientation to prepare their minds for a return to civil society," Sesay said. This process, which lasts 22 days, includes civic education, basic adult literacy, reconciliation, psychosocial counselling, consumer education and job-finding techniques.

On discharge, the soldiers are given identification cards and the equivalent of US $300, which they receive in two tranches. However, Sesay said some ex-soldiers who had completed the programme rejoined the rebels in January 1999.

On 29 June, Information Minister Julius Spencer announced on the BBC that the SLA had never been disbanded and that benefits would be given to those who surrendered.

Most Freetown analysts interpreted this statement as a shift in government policy - since the army was dissolved shortly after the junta's overthrow - and felt it was a genuine attempt by the government at reconciliation.

One RUF commander in the western district of Kambia told IRIN he would like to join a reconstituted Sierra Leonean army if given the chance to do so. He said he left the army in 1995 and joined the RUF in February 1998 when ECOMOG evicted the junta from Freetown.

Sesay told IRIN he had heard many reports of SLA fighters in the bush saying they wanted to be reincorporated into the regular army.

It is unclear what policy will be applied for non-SLA members of the RUF as there is no archetypal rebel and individuals have different motives for joining. One 25-year-old told IRIN he joined the RUF eight years ago but could not remember why.

Another, aged 22, told IRIN before the peace agreement: "I joined the rebels last year because I was tired of running away from the rebels". He said he was glad he had joined the rebels and that he wanted to learn a trade if there was peace.

A different set of challenges will be posed by the Civil Defence Force (CDF) - which comprises militias made up of traditional hunters - and especially the Kamajors, commanded by Deputy Defence Minister Hinga Norman.

In January 1999, there was a mass recruitment of kamajors in response to the increased threat posed by the RUF. Now their exact number is unknown. The newly-initiated Kamajors, most of whom paid 40,000-50,000 leones (US $16-20) to join the militia, have been becoming increasingly unruly, according to humanitarian sources, who said there were many examples of aid agency vehicles being commandeered.

"The traditional relationship between the chiefdom authorities and the Kamajors has changed," said one aid worker in Bo, a Kamajor stronghold in southern Sierra Leone.

Efforts have been made to improve the relationship between the militiamen and the local community. At the end of a recent EU-sponsored workshop in Bo, Norman highlighted several commitments made by the CDF. These included pledges to respect chiefs, state officials and the law, to stop commandeering vehicles except in life-and-death situations and to stop recruiting children.

Norman had also called on CDF members to put aside their mistrust of the army and be ready to join the new Sierra Leone Army as a way of contributing to the future stability of the country.


[IRIN-WA: Tel: +225 217366 Fax: +225 216335 e-mail: ]

Item: irin-english-1219

[This item is delivered in the "irin-english" service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information or free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or fax: +254 2 622129 or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific