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May 7, 2015 | SSR Initiative

This article is the first contribution in our new blog series that features recent research findings on security sector reform published in international relations academic journals.

This contribution summarizes and builds on research originally published here:

Elzarov, Zurab, (2015). “Community Stabilization and Violence Reduction: Lessons from Darfur”. Stability: International Journal of Security & Development 4(1). DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/sta.ex

The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process in Darfur has been regulated by the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) and the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). As part of the DPA signed in 2006, the Government carried out the demobilization of 4,027 former combatants, but only 315 of these fighters received reintegration support, before funding, and the programme, came to an end.

The signing of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) between the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) in 2011 and the Justice and Equality Movement-Sudan (JEM-Sudan – previously known as JEM-Bashar) in 2013 gave a new impetus to the DDR process in Darfur. Chapter VI of the DDPD on Permanent Ceasefire and Final Security Arrangements has set forward the procedures for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration as well as integration of former combatants into the Sudanese Armed Forces and Police Forces.

DDR and the Justice and Equality Movement-Sudan (JEM-Sudan)

Implementation of the DDPD Final Security Arrangements for JEM-Sudan started with a formal launching ceremony for integration of JEM-Sudan troops into the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on 25 August 2014 and followed with the limited arms control process. Long-range and crew-assisted weapons and relevant munitions, vehicles mounted with medium machine guns, trucks, as well as personal weapons were inspected and registered.

Following the conclusion of the Limited Arms Control and disarmament exercise, on 24 September, the Sudan DDR Commission (SDDRC) shared with the United Nations – African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) a list of those ex-combatants from JEM-Sudan and affiliated movements who did not qualify for integration into SAF or opted for reintegration, and sought the Mission’s technical and logistics support to facilitate their demobilization and subsequent reintegration into civilian society.

The demobilization process commenced on 2 November at the demobilization site in North Darfur State, and was completed on 20 November 2014. During the demobilization process, a total of 534 ex-combatants from JEM-Sudan and affiliated movements were verified, registered and profiled into the DDR database to plan for their subsequent reintegration into civilian society. They were medically screened with the assistance of UNAMID, and received reintegration briefing from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as HIV/AIDS counselling by the State Ministry of Health (SMoH). In addition to technical and logistics assistance, UNAMID and the World Food Programme (WFP) have also provided the ex-combatants with reinsertion support and three-month food rations to help sustain themselves until the beginning of the reintegration process.

DDR and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM)

As far as the DDR process for the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) is concerned, after signing the DDPD in July 2011, the Government of Sudan and LJM did initiate the implementation of DDPD Final Security Arrangements through verification of LJM forces for subsequent disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of LJM combatants. However, the exercise remained inconclusive due to the disagreement on the results of verification. It is important to note that the verification exercise is the cornerstone for supporting the implementation of various phases of DDPD Final Security Arrangements, especially those related to DDR.

Finally, in November 2013, the Government of Sudan and LJM signed the Final Security Arrangements Implementation Agreement which provided a list of planned activities and timeframes for implementation of DDPD Final Security Arrangements, including the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants. In February 2014, the Government and LJM informed about their agreement to integrate three LJM battalions composed of 2,430 combatants into the Sudan Armed Forces and Police.

The integration process for LJM former combatants started in South Darfur State in December 2014 and gradually extended to North, West and Central Darfur. The process is currently on-going to determine the ex-combatants’ eligibility for integration into SAF and Police. Those who opt for reintegration or are not qualified for integration will be referred for demobilization and reintegration into civilian society.

As mentioned above, a significant number of former combatants from the 2006 DPA signatory movements were demobilized but had not received reintegration support. Therefore, some of these former fighters might have re-joined new armed groups or criminal gangs while others could be surviving through getting occasional jobs as a source of livelihoods. Currently, there is no funding available for assisting this caseload of former combatants with reinsertion and reintegration support package.

Lessons Learned

The demobilization process of JEM-Sudan and the on-going integration process for LJM in Darfur have clearly demonstrated some important aspects, pre-conditions and lessons learned for successful implementation of DDR programmes.

Integrated approach and coordination: Integrated approach and effective inter-agency coordination structures have proved to be key in successful implementation of the DDR process for JEM-Sudan and affiliated movements. Ahead of launching the demobilization exercise, UNAMID established a joint Task Force to properly plan and divide the responsibilities among the key international stakeholders. The Task Force, established three weeks before the start of the demobilization process, played a significant role in the identification and delivery of logistics requirements for the establishment of the demobilization camp and the provision of necessary equipment, facilities and resources. A similar Technical Coordination Mechanism was establishment with the Government counterparts one month before the commencement of the demobilization process to agree, inter alia, on shared responsibilities for planning and managing the demobilization exercise.

Availability of sufficient funding: DDR programmes must have sufficient funding to complete the implementation of each phase of the programme. As it was the case with the former combatants from the 2006 DPA signatory movements, funds for reintegration should be secured prior to initiating disarmament and demobilization processes to avoid failure of the whole programme that can have negative effect on what sometimes can be a fragile peace. Former combatants who are not successfully demobilized and reintegrated may return to the battlefield as the only alternative for making a living and can easily fuel new violence.

Orientation of former combatants before commencing the DDR process proved to be important so that former combatants could have realistic expectation and a better understanding of the reinsertion and reintegration support offered as viable alternatives to fighting.

Transportation was a primary logistical challenge. However, by working together, the Government of Sudan and UNAMID have come up with shared responsibilities whereas the Government provided transportation of former combatants from their locations to the assembly points whereas UNAMID provided transportation from the assembly points to the demobilization site and back to the assembly points.

Reinsertion support to address the most immediate needs of ex-combatants was offered by UNAMID through cash allowances as an effective and efficient way to provide reinsertion assistance. In Darfur, cash payments were preferred over in-kind assistance because of the challenging transportation networks affecting the procurement, delivery and distribution of relief items, and because cash payments can adapt more closely to the specific needs of beneficiaries. They were designed to cover the basic needs of former combatants to sustain their lives until the beginning of the reintegration process. After demobilization, many former combatants travelled long distances to return to their communities of origin. Cash payments allowed them to purchase the needed livelihood and household items upon arrival, rather than carrying them all the way from the demobilization site. Additionally, cash allowances had the positive psychological effect of empowering ex-combatants to take charge of their lives.

All in all, the implementation of the demobilization exercise for JEM-Sudan and the progress in implementation of finally security arrangements for LJM after a long delay is a significant development, the success of which may have a considerable impact on the peace process in Darfur. This is the first DDR exercise in Darfur since 2011, the successful accomplishment of which may advance the peace process, demonstrate the peace dividends, and encourage combatants from other armed movements/groups to join the peace process.

Nevertheless, the success of the DDR process in Darfur will largely depend on several important factors. Firstly, in a current situation when the hostilities between the Government of Sudan and the three main armed movements are still ongoing and the DDPD is not inclusive, the pre-conditions for any large-scale DDR programme in Darfur are limited. Secondly, the reinsertion and reintegration assistance to former combatants can improve their personal economic situation to a certain degree. But this assistance will not improve the socio-economic situation of the whole region. Subsequently, for the DDR programme in Darfur to succeed, it has to be implemented as part of a broader stabilization, recovery and reconstruction strategy, involving a diverse array of international and national stakeholders. Thirdly, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Darfur is high, posing a threat to human security and long-term stability in the region. To create conducive conditions for a successful DDR programme in Darfur, the DDR process should be coupled with the Government-led effective measures for civilian arms control. Finally, thus far the DDR in Darfur has been characterized by delayed and incomplete processes. Such practice does frustrate ex-combatants and creates a risk that they opt out of a delayed or poorly planned DDR and lose their trust in a DDR programme and the overall peace process.


Zurab Elzarov has been working with the United Nations over the past 19 years to promote post-conflict stabilization and recovery, facilitate the return and reintegration of displaced population, support the disarmament and demobilization of former combatants and strengthen integrated approach and inter-agency coordination over a number of field assignments in Eastern Europe and North Africa. He is currently serving with the United Nations – African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) as a Senior Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Officer, to coordinate the Mission’s support to the DDR process in Darfur, including the disarmament and demobilization of former combatants and community stabilization in conflict affected areas.


Photo: Hamid Abdulsalam/UNAMID