July 7, 2012 (BENTIU) - South Sudan is due to kick off a fresh demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration exercise for ex-combatants in Unity State, which was delayed from after border clashes with neighbouring Sudan in March and April 2012.
With the security situation along the border improving and with two sides resuming the African Union led negotiations South Sudan’s army (SPLA) have ordered Unity State’s Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) Commission to resume it’s work.
Last year in collaboration with SPLA’s fourth division, Unity State’s DDR Commission disarmed nearly 100 former child soldiers and elderly people from the military.
The SPLA is still making the transition from the patchwork of armed groups that constituted the guerrilla rebel group which fought the Sudan Armed Forces for over two decades, into a national army for the world’s youngest country.
On Thursday Unity State’s DDR Coordinator, George Gatloi Koang, announced that the commission will start a new phase of disarmament before the end of July.
Koang complained that some ex-combatants had failed to respond to previous calls for them to be reintegrated back into their communities and give up their weapons.
Small arms among civilians are a major source of insecurity in South Sudan.
Koang said he had received a list of ex-combatants to disarmed and get assistance in vocational skills such how to run a small business and farming.
South Sudan’s Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Programme receives funding from United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and other NGO’s for capacity building for the disarmed children and elderly SPLA soldiers.
Koang saying his commission is looking for ex-combatants who failed to response to previous calls disarm and reintegrate.
Each individual involved in the DDR programme is presented, by the organisations participating, with choices as to what training and skills they would like to learn, Koang said.
“The partners and commission will work hard to support these people because they are our heroes, they are our brothers and some of them they are fathers," he said.
Koang hopes that the programme will help bring families back together after being separated by the two decade civil war. Some four million people were displaced by conflict.
In 2011 around 45 ex-combatants were disarmed from the SPLA’s Fourth Division, which is based in Unity State. They are now under sponsors of Veterinary Sans Frontiers (VSF), an organisation that is providing training at Comboni Technical School in Leer County.
Among them is 16 years old Makuel Puol Liaw who said he did not want to take part in the vocational training as he did not want to leave the military.
“I’m not interesting to join vocational training because I did not know how to read and write I prepare to be in the barrack then to be civilian,” said Liaw.
He added that even though they forced him to disarm, he was still prepared to be a soldier.
Some ex-combatants have disappeared after handing over their weapon and have not taken up the vocational training available to them, DDR workers say.