DRC: Ex-combatants in the digital age

By Bernardin Sebahire
Researcher at ISDR-Bukavu

The emergence of armed groups and their persistence provoke many
consequences. In rural areas in particular, the militarization of
socio-economic problems has become commonplace. It gets hard
to think of rural society outside militia influences, given that
armed groups are now an integral part of the social, political landscape
and local economy. Their activism also has major consequences on
social cohesion. The mobilization of these armed groups by different actors
contributes to the deterioration of social relations and increases mistrust within
population. They intervene both in conflicts related to access and
control of land and minerals, than in socio-economic conflicts,
identities, or even in conflicts of customary power and conflicts

Whatever the reasons for their creation, the Armed Groups (AG) did not
negatively impact social relationships. Their presence aggravates the
conflicts and maintains permanent insecurity of people and their property,
while hampering local development. Peace initiatives at the level of
communities that did not take into account the presence of the AGs would not have
limited impact; these being an integral part of the society supposed
benefit from these initiatives. The reciprocal influence between society and armed groups is
therefore become an indisputable reality.

Aware of the challenges and experiences of the past, the Congolese government has
announced the implementation of a new Disarmament Program,
Demobilization Community Recovery and Stabilization (P-DDRCS). This
latter suggests a community-based and decentralized approach, led by
local populations. Communities are not mere beneficiaries of
demobilization and reintegration programs but key players in the
process. These communities are at the center of the search for avenues of
durable solutions for reintegration and social cohesion. The DDRC is therefore
a process of resocialization of ex-combatants with their communities. This
process takes place within the very communities that ex-combatants have
abandoned for a moment and that they must reintegrate. Permanent executives of
dialogue, combined with psychosocial support and the creation of opportunities economic benefits that benefit all communities, are ingredients crucial for reconciliation, the prevention of future (re-)mobilization and the reintegration of combatants.

To break the vicious circle of the war economy that has prevailed for
decades in eastern DRC, courageous efforts are needed on the
in the field, in particular through professional training, tools for
development and peace. Based on this observation, the National Institute for the Preparation
Professional (INPP) is interested in young people released from forces and groups
armed but above all to their socio-economic reintegration. So in Goma, Province
North Kivu, DR Congo; 20 young people at risk and 20 demobilized ex-combatants
received kits allowing them to start repairing phones after
six months of professional training in the repair of cellular devices.

After being released by the army, Isaac underwent rehabilitation in a
specialized transit center managed by a local NGO partner of UNICEF in
Goma, capital of North Kivu. Isaac and four other young people learned
electronics and acquired other professional skills.

“I would like to stay here for now because the area I come from is not
still not sure,” says Isaac. "The rebels are still there, and they risk
to kill me."
Charles Ndusha, trainer at the youth centre, explains that the process
leading to Isaac's trade apprenticeship was grueling. " Our objective
is to ensure that these young people are well trained when they leave the
center so that they can lead an independent life in their community, in
society and in their family,” adds the professional.