Local Re-integration (Bottom Up)
The THRP's [Trauma and Healing and Reconciliation Program] offices were new, but the program had a history. Liberia's churches had been active in peace efforts ever since the civil war started, and in 1991, Lutheran pastors, lay leaders, teachers and health workers joined with the Christian Health Association of Liberia to try to repair the psychic and social damage left by the war.
(Gbowee and Mithers, 2011, p. 9).
The reintegration phase is said to be the most difficult aspect of DDR programs, posing different challenges than the tangible, strategic components of disarmament and demobilization phases. For instance, the return of ex-combatants as members of communities can cause under-currents of fear within the community, while the inequalities that may have been present prior to conflict remain (Malan and Meek, n.d). Healing from internal conflict is a slow, drawn-out process and every situation is different than the next. As a result, it is important that re-integration be tailored to account for local customs and practices. As the process unfolds in which ex-combatants acquire civilian status, access to work and income while returning to their own communities, promotion of local ownership is crucial.
Muggah (2006) suggests an innovative collective DDR that incorporates three components – ‘collective’, ‘area based’ and ‘community-centred’ interventions, that are more in line with local practices because they are based on collective principles rather than individualistic.
In post-conflict situations, there often lacks a strong and robust civil society, or what Thompson (1999) calls an associational model that can take an active role in promoting re-integrations programs that are more locally relevant.
If a society's institutions have been destroyed through civil war, it provides opportunities for foreign international players to influence domestic policy and to impose a particular model on society. International NGOs tend to push existing local NGOs aside, filling in the empty spaces in African politics. They are rarely neutral players.
Williams and Carter (2005) state that if actions are initiated and planned by community members based on their identified prioritized needs it is more likely to be catalyzed by an outside group.
It was shown that an outside organization (like IRC in Liberia) could not pre-determine the specific issues to be addressed, nor the methods used. Likewise, if an organization provides significant resources up front to start an activity, implicitly in the eyes of the community, it takes on a degree of responsibility for the continuity of the activity.
Many child soldiers report psycho-social disturbances - from nightmares and angry aggression to anti-social behaviour and substance abuse – as active soldiers and after their return to civilian life. According to UNICEF, successful demobilisation and rehabilitation programmes not only involve taking the guns out of children's hands but finding ways to reunite and resettle the children with their families and communities, and provide for their psycho-social care and recovery.
Herbert (2004) in visiting Mozambique during the war and 15 years later, finds former child soldiers, relatively successful; they have acquired financial success, marital stability and the classical measures of mental health, like clear thinking and emotional steadiness. Many had used traditional healers, locally as curandeiros after the civil war. Local diagnosis and healing in Mozambique is very different from western practice, although Herbert (2004) found some similarities about mental health and psychotherapy. For instance, PTSD symptoms in the West, i.e., abnormal sadness, emotional paralysis, nightmares and flashbacks, stem from different causes and are treated differently. For instance, they believe that when a soldier murders someone, the spirit of the dead takes up residence in the killer and for the sake of mental stability, the spirit of the victim must be driven out (Herbert, 2004). To that end, the healers might concoct local herbs and have the returning soldiers to breathe it to accomplish spiritual cleansing. Or they might kill a chicken or goat, mix the blood with water, then use this portion to “vaccinate” them with pinpricks to the arm. Rituals must be done before the child is allowed to re-enter the household, to prevent contamination of the home. Mozambique offers an interesting study because rebel groups and the government denied using child soldiers, it is estimated that approx. 25,000 children were left to re-integrate themselves into their communities without any help whatsoever.
People who have lived through a terrible conflict may be hungry and desperate, but they're not stupid. They often have very good ideas about how peace can evolve, and they need to be asked.
Leymah Gbowee, Liberian Peace Activist, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2011.
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