UN Disarming civilians in the Sudan\\

June 10th, 2009 in Breaking News, Disarming Civilians
First South Sudan Rebels Disarm In Biggest UN Demobilizatiion.

JUBA, Sudan (AFP)–Former rebels who fought a devastating 22-year civil war in south Sudan began laying down their arms Wednesday as the U.N.’s biggest demobilization program stepped up a gear.

It is hoped that a total of 180,000 former fighters will pass through the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program, a key part of the 2005 peace deal that ended the conflict between north and south in which an estimated 1.5 million people died.

“We are not casting you away, but reassigning you to new and important roles and duties, to build a new Sudan,” Luka Monoja, cabinet affairs minister in the southern regional government, told the first 16 troops to be demobilized Wednesday.

“You must go with your heads held high, we are proud of you,” Monoja added, speaking on behalf of southern regional president Salva Kiir.

The U.N.-backed demobilization program began in north Sudan in February with the demobilization of government troops and irregular forces who fought alongside them. A total of 4,300 men have been disarmed in the north so far.

The program foresees the disarmament of equal numbers of forces from both sides in the conflict between the Muslim north and mainly Christian and animist south.

U.N. humanitarian coordinator for south Sudan Lise Grande hailed a key component in the peace process.

“In demobilizing these former heroes from the SPLA, the government will be giving them an opportunity to return to their communities with dignity and with respect,” Grande said, speaking at the ceremony at a military base outside the southern regional capital Juba.

Under the staggered scheme, soldiers put forward by their commanders will be assessed, electronically registered and given medical checks at special centers.

They will then be given a package of cash, food and essentials such as basic tools.

Later, each demobilized fighter will receive reintegration support including vocational training to learn a new career, or backing to establish a small business or farm.

Up to 35,000 combatants from the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army will be demobilized in Juba and eight other centers in southern Sudan in the first phase of the operation.