Since 2012, RET has been implementing successful DDR programs for children and adolescents who have been engaged with armed groups in South and North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. RET’s approach to DDR is holistic, intending to bring about lasting change in communities affected by the recruitment of underage combatants. It includes:
(1) prevention strategies, such as awareness-raising amongst non-state armed groups, district, and provincial authorities, as well as at more grass-roots community level. Also, RET builds the capacities of local Youth Associations to engage more children and adolescents in positive community engagement, as a protection mechanism against recruitment.
(2) Demobilization of ex-combatants is done in full collaboration with national and local partners (including UEPN-DDR and MONUSCO), with whom RET has collaborated over the six years. Following the legal and formal demobilization process is over, in collaboration with local authorities, the adolescents go through a “Re-orientation” 3-month comprehensive rehabilitation program in RET’s Centers of Transit and Orientation (CTO).
RET works with COTHPAIX, a local theatre association, for the trauma-healing process, alongside fully qualified professional medical and psychological staff. The Centre for Transition (CTO) also provides relevant learning opportunities, to give the young people with relevant skills with which to return to their community. These include basic literacy/numeracy, catch up education for those returning to school, and simple trade skills for income-generation.
(3) A comprehensive and fully supported reinsertion program ensures that ex-combatants are received back into their communities, engage in school or income-generation, and engage with Youth Associations.
(4) Training for parents to form local cooperatives village savings and loans schemes and other sustainable business practices completes the circle, as poverty and unemployment are fundamental causes of the continuation of armed activity in the Kivu’s.
Some, not all, quantifiable results from RET’s DDR programs:
- Less than 1% of reinserted ex-combatants re-joined armed groups.
- Over 85% of trained key stakeholders, including leaders of armed groups, have signed commitment letters to refrain from or to support the use of adolescents below 18 in armed groups.
- Over 90% of ex-combatants reinserted into schools are still in school after one year.
- Over 30 Peace Projects are implemented by the rehabilitated youth to promote peace.
Tools: Prevention and sensitization on international and national legislation relating to the use of children and adolescents in armed groups;
Rehabilitation: Psychosocial Counseling, Basic Functional Literacy, Numeracy Skills, Formal or Vocational Education, Life Plan elaboration, and Recreational Sports and Cultural Activities;
Training of community focal points; Engaging the Reintegrated ex-combatants into Educational or Income-generating paths as well as in Peace Projects and Youth associations.