September 18, 2013 (WAU) - South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir on Wednesday commissioned the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) of 290 ex-combatants.
The launch in Mapel, a strategic area in Western Bahr el Ghazal state, saw the attendance of senior government officials and notable representatives of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Hilde F. Johnson, the special representative of the United Nations Secretary General (SRSG), in a statement issued Tuesday, said that the graduation of the 290 ex-fighters represents the first pilot phase of the DDR program to be completed under the new program in the country.
“The pilot phase is a key component of the new South Sudan DDR program and represents an important step in the process of deepening peace and stability in South Sudan", said Johnson, also head of UNMISS.
This graduation ceremony, she stressed, marks the beginning of DDR in independent South Sudan, adding that the ex-fighters will now begin the process of going back to their states and communities, return to civilian life and participate in building their new country.
The graduates underwent a three month intensive residential vocation training intended to help them return to normal civilian life.
The condensed training equipped the ex-combatants with life skills training in agriculture, masonry, plumbing, mechanics and construction work as well as classes in English literacy and numeracy.
Participants were drawn from the Greater Bahr el Ghazal region, with 18 of them being women.
Other partners, notably the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) provided much of the design, development and provision of the vocation trainings, while UNMISS through their Chinese engineering contingent in the area supported the program with the building of the site.
UNMISS also assisted the local communities with the building of an administration office for the payam [district] headquarters, police station with detention cells, catering centre and market place in addition to seven shallow wells for potable water as well as agriculture and animal watering.
Kiir pledged to support the function of the centre with a donation of $1.5 million dollars, underlining the importance of the program as it is the government led and owned initiative with support from key donors and implementing partners.
The president also recognised with thanks the role and the participation of each fighter during the war of liberation struggle from Sudan.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 after a peace deal in 2005 granted the region a self determination vote.