Congo Watch: MONUC: 10,000 militiamen have been disarmed in DRC

Thursday, April 14, 2005

MONUC: 10,000 militiamen have been disarmed in DRC

DRC Monitoring 4/04/2005 Tom Tshibangu/MONUC:

About 10,000 militiamen have been disarmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to MONUC.

The disarmament process officially ended on April 1st, and ever since, all militiamen who have not surrendered their weapons are regarded as enemies by UN peacekeepers.

Yesterday, UPC, one of the militias still active in Ituri, distanced itself from its most radical elements. As a result, UPC regards all militiamen who refuse to surrender arms as outlaws. This is the first time the UPC leadership commits itself to demobilisation this clearly. At the same time, 500 elements of the FAPC were disarming in the locality of Montawa in Ituri. RFI's special envoy Pauline Simonet was there witnessing this.

(Pauline Simonet): Their weapons pointed at the sky, the FAPC militiamen are happy to lay down their weapons in the Montawa camp. When their names are called, they will each step forward in turn to hand over their weapons to the UN peacekeepers and members of the National Commission for Disarmament (CONADER) who register them.

Among the ex-militiamen, a sad-faced 25-year-old woman, Nzale Mukavu, is also participating in the disarmament process. She had been used as as sex slave. "In the army, as I'm a girl, I was always disturbed. There are times when, even without your consent, you must obey your commander's orders." And if for example, a commander wants to have sex, can't you refuse? "You cannot. If you refuse, they will beat you. And eventually I had two children in the army"

After laying down their weapons, the ex-militiamen are sent to the transit camp at Aru, 20 km away, where they must spend 4 days being sensitised. They have the choice between two options: civilian and military life. Those who opt for civilian life are given some basic commodities and $50 to help ease their reintegration. One of them is Bratoto Zaki, a 28-year-old man. According to him, there are still numerous militiamen out there who resist the disarmament process.

"It is better to continue sensitising the others who are not here in Congo, who have fled to Uganda and Sudan. Or others who have hidden their weapons in their villages. People need to be sensitised so that they come to hand over their arms as we have done."

Two reintegration projects are to be put in place notably by UNDP, but NGOs deplore the slowness in setting up these projects.


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