Category Archives: DDR

African Armies Governance: An expected transformation

Last year I wrote an article emphasizing the climate of uncertainty which prevailed within several African military institutions in particular Chad, Ivory Coast and Somalia, to take only these examples. Several countries being in phase of reconstruction because of successive military and political crises, know difficulties rebuilding their armies and maintaining a certain cohesion or often an exemplary discipline. Gambia, Mali and Burkina Faso, are examples of country among which the armies for diverse reasons, remain fragile in spite of all the efforts of current reconstruction.

One must recognize that, the largest number of countries which armies are fragile, is because of internal crises and because of political manipulation of the military tool. The political instrumentalization for purposes of positioning, remains the main cause of the diverse unrests but you should not either hide the insufficiency of governance of these armies. The case of Chad reminds us of how much the non-payment of bonuses due to soldiers who intervened within a UN framework, is an aberration regarding  the governance of the defense sector. Worse, the Chadian President requested the international financial support, to support the actions of his soldiers in Mali within the framework of the fight against terrorism and it was the object of no reaction. Let us not forget that Chad remains one of the most committed countries in the fight against terror.

How do these countries manage not being able to settle arrears of bonuses promised in a context or an other one? How do they manage not to anticipate these unrests within the armies being regularly transformed into mutinies? It seems that the weaknesses of these countries are at the level of the governance of their armies. A Coherent and active governance of the Defense sector effectively allows to anticipate major crises such as mutinies. The governance of the Defense sector rests essentially on the bodies of the armies in charge of governance, which are  the inspection and control services, contributing to the stability of the military institution. Besides another mechanism of anticipation and governance of the Defense sector is the National Assembly which through democratic control of the armies, provides coherent governance of the military and alerts on possible deficiencies to consider. In fact this is about a major gouvernance watch device based on internal mechanisms to the armies (inspection and control) but also over external mechanisms (Civil society, NGOs, National Assembly, etc.) to anticipate crises which can destabilize the concerned countries.

So, the transformation of African armies on the basis of a sincere commitment of the decision-makers, is imperative more than ever. The general unrest of the armies which very often is only an accumulation of dysfunctions from inheritance, must be handled frontally with realism and political courage. When it turns out to be necessary, a simple revision can settle this discontent through a Security Sector Reform (SSR), in the worst case, a revival (dissolution and reconstruction) of the armies is inevitable. In any case, a brave political will matched by a consequent defence budget, determines the success of such an initiative, wether it is about restructuring, revision, or dissolution with the aim of reconstruction.

Outside the African continent, several countries experimented the dissolution of the armies with mixed results (Costa Rica, Haiti and Panama). For Costa Rica and Panama, the effort was put on a well equipped police force and Defense agreements, as for Haiti, which had dissolved its army in 1996, reconstruction was engaged since 2014. We thus recommend on the basis of this observation of general unrest of the African armies, that the African Union ( AU) can convene an emergency meeting to examine this thorny question and to establish an African special program for armies reconstruction of countries wishing it. This program could be financed by the AU countries themselves but also with the bilateral and multilateral cooperations. Finally, A fund raising campaign could support this vast continental program.

Demobilisation, Disarmament and Rehabilitation Programmes – Martin Rix

It is vital that in post-conflict planning adequate provision is given Demobilisation, Disarmament and Rehabilitation (DDR) programmes. Ensuring combatants and weapons are no longer in the field, coupled with effective reintegration – as those alienated from their communities may eventually decide to re-take arms – has consistently proven to reduce the possibility of hostilities resuming. Additionally, DDR assists in creating a secure space in which wider post-conflict reconstruction can take place to ensure long-term security and economic development.

However, DDR programmes can often be too narrow in focus or attempt a one-size-fits-all approach (Wessells, 2015), ignoring the differences between male, female and child-focused programmes. In many cases programmes may only provide tokenism (Gordon, Cleland Welch and Roos, 2015), which creates an illusion of inclusion – often to appease donors – but fails to provide the assistance actually required.

Our NGO is committed to a fully encompassing DDR that, while developing bespoke programmes for male, female and child ex-combatants, does so equally, acknowledging the similar and different requirements each of these groups have to allow appropriate planning and implementation.

Distinction between these three groups is vital, as each may require niche elements. For example, the longevity of adult and child programmes differ widely (Muggah, 2010), with child-focused programmes requiring long-term commitment that may not produce immediately measurable results (Save The Children, 2005), while careful consideration is required regarding the different levels of stigma received by male and female ex-combatants over their involvement in armed conflict – as well as requirements regarding childcare or the provision of traditional clothing (Bouta, 2005; World Bank, 2013).

We believe that timings are also key. Prolonging the commencement of programmes may test ex-combatants’ commitment to peace, while adult-focused programmes should begin at the earliest opportunity to ensure that ex-combatants are disarmed and re-assimilated into society before post-conflict democratic processes begin (Banholzer, 2014). Failure to ensure ex-combatants are reintegrated in order to partake in elections may result in further marginalisation and the re-emergence of old grievances. Equally, for child-focused DDR it is important to ensure participants are included on educational programmes as soon as possible.

We view the provision of education as integral. For children this should consist of school education and life skills. For example, programmes in Liberia focused on reading, writing and mathematics but also included practical skills in ‘agriculture…mechanics, carpentry, cosmetology, masonry, tailoring and baking’ (UNICEF, 2006). Adult-focused programmes should primarily focus on vocational training, but, depending on literacy levels, may include reading and writing education, which would utilise existing teaching contacts and resources.

We recognise that many of the foundations required for effective DDR programmes equate across all programme types. Regardless of age or sex, ex-combatants alienated from society may decide to re-take arms, so there must be education and training to raise awareness within wider society, promoting understanding of why ex-combatants require assistance and how programmes may differ in structure and design. These outreach programmes should be delivered by local politicians, business owners, teachers and religious leaders (Nilsson, 2005). It may also be perceived that those who perpetrated crimes during the conflict are taking jobs in a limited market (World Bank, 2013; Wessells, 2015) or are receiving funding, so print media, radio and television campaigns should be designed (World Bank, 2013) to reach a wider audience.

Our NGO also believes in shaping programmes to provide the support that ex-combatants actually require, not what it’s perceived they do. Every conflict zone is different and may involve a range of cultures or religions. To ensure our programmes effectively reflect this guidance and advice should be sought from male, female and child ex-combatants at each stage of the process (Wessells, 2015), from initial planning through to implementation, to ensure that programmes provide the correct support and are constantly improved.

Finally, no single element of a DDR programme can function without support from donors. Our NGO requires support from external and internal donors to ensure programmes provide a complete level of support for ex-combatants (Nilsson, 2005). It is vital that donors recognise that without providing adequate and equal resources for DDR programmes for men, women and children the risks of a resumption of violence increases.

DDR has consistently proved to be an effective tool in post-conflict rebuilding, however, programmes designed for only a selection of ex-combatants will not produce sufficient results. Providing bespoke DDR for men, women and children is pivotal for ensuring post-conflict security and that all ex-combatants are successfully reintegrated into society.


Demobilisation, Disarmament and Rehabilitation (DDR) programmes have become integral to post-conflict development, however, while boasting many successes they have also failed in a number of key areas.

DDR is a three-step process, but often planners only focus on demobilisation. For example, during Sierra Leone’s 2003 programme 72,490 combatants were disarmed and 71,043 demobilised (Kaldor and Vincent, 2006) and while this helped ensure security, the process was, effectively, one of demobilisation, with estimates that only 2-10 percent of weapons in the country were collected (Kaldor and Vincent, 2006).

As men make up the majority of armed personnel, programmes often place the focus upon them, with requirements for women and children becoming an afterthought. There can be a general reluctance amongst female ex-combatants to register for DDR (Nilsson, 2005) as planners often fail to provide women-only centres and solutions to women’s issues, such as difficulty in securing work in traditional societies where the woman’s role is perceived to be in the home (World Bank, 2013).

For child-focused DDR, a lack of funding is a common problem. In 2004, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported that donors had generally failed to fund children’s programmes to the same extent as other projects (Save The Children, 2005). It is argued that child DDR funding should not be reliant on adult programmes, as any setbacks will affect it (Muggah, 2010), but subsequently means planners overlook child-focused programmes as they can contradict donor priorities and may not provide headline results, particularly due to longer timescales.


Banholzer, L. (2014) When Do Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programmes Succeed?, Bonn: German Development Institute,, (accessed 25th September 2016)

Bouta, T. (2005) Gender and Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration: Building Blocs for Dutch Policy,, (accessed 13th August 2015).

Gordon, E., Cleland Welch, A. and Roos, E. (2015) Security Sector Reform and the Paradoxical Tension between Local Ownership and Gender Equality, University of Leicester,, (accessed 21st March 2016).

Kaldor, M. and Vincent, J. (2006) Evaluation of UNDP Assistance to Conflict-Affected Countries: Case Study Sierra Leone,, (accessed 3 September 2015).

Muggah, R. (2010) ‘Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration’ in V. Chetail (ed.) Post-conflict Peacebuilding: A Lexicon, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 123-137.

Nilsson, A. (2005) Reintegrating Ex-Combatants in Post-Conflict Societies,, (accessed 13th August 2015).

Save The Children (2005) Protecting Children in Emergencies: Escalating Threats To Children Must Be Addressed,, (accessed 2nd May 2016).

UNICEF (2006) Protecting Children During Armed Conflict,, (accessed 26th April 2016).

Wessells, M. (2015) Children and Armed Conflict. [Podcast] The Clarke Forum. 17th Feb 2016,, (accessed 7th May 2016).

World Bank (2013) Female Ex-Combatants Find Livelihoods and Acceptance in Burundi,, (accessed 13th August 2015).