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What factors have influenced the reintegration into society of ex-combatants from the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA)? This monograph from the Institute for Security Studies assesses the reintegration of ex-UNITA combatants in three of the most contested provinces in Angola’s civil war. It examines the relationship between reintegration, on the one had, and vulnerability, identity, social capital, sustainable livelihoods and political participation, on the other.

Every conflict poses unique challenges for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR). In Angola the context for DDR included that peace came largely through military victory and that over a third of the population was internally displaced. Angola therefore faced the monumental challenge of returning and reintegrating not only ex-combatants, but also families of military personnel, internally displaced people and refugees. The needs of these groups were largely similar and they were generally well-received into the communities to which they returned. However, many reintegrated ex-combatants do not yet identify themselves as citizens rather than soldiers.

While DDR programmes are recognised as critical to peacebuilding, the substantive content of reintegration remains unexamined from the perspective of the target group. The From Soldiers to Citizens Project therefore focused on former UNITA combatants in post-war Angola as a case study to address the following questions: 

  • Which factors facilitate reintegration and which ones impede it? The role and type of intervention strategies that support reintegration of ex-combatants remain highly contested.

  • Are the experiences of ex-combatants significantly different from other groups? Is support specifically targeted at them necessary for their reintegration? Some suggest that targeted programmes could hinder ex-combatants’ reintegration.

  • What is the relationship between identity and reintegration and to what extent do self-perception and community perceptions influence outcomes? The nature of the transformation of identities and its impact on reintegration needs to be examined.

  • What does reintegration mean in the context of weak or non-existent state structures? Reintegration in Africa generally takes place within the context of a fragile state. This raises the question of what it means to be reintegrated into a fragmented society.

The context of each DDR process is unique. Quantitative and qualitative research reveals that in the case of Angola:

  • Little distinguishes ex-combatants from other vulnerable groups. They face the same challenges, experience a very similar degree of vulnerability, have the same limited set of skills and survive using identical income-generating activities.

  • Nearly half of ex-combatants still hold non-civilian identities, describing themselves as ‘demobilised’ (48.6 per cent) or ‘military’ (1 per cent). The data does not make clear why this is, particularly since the vast majority feel well-received by their communities.

  • Social networks tend to exclude outsiders and reinforce identities, rather than build trust between groups. This could pose an obstacle to ex-combatants in their future development, as well as hindering the breakdown of military identities.

  • Ex-combatants are generally knowledgeable about electoral politics and conscious of the democratic process in a general way. They recognise the opportunities that the process presents, but are ambivalent about actively engaging in party politics.

  • Sustainable livelihoods are determinants of successful reintegration. Professional training and formal education are critical, but require a developmental vision. A lack of resources and capacity at the local level has limited the impact of training programmes.

171 Pages, eBook (PDF) format. Download link will be immediately emailed to you after checkout. File size: 1.21 MB

Publisher: Institute for Security Studies (2007)

Authors: J Gomes Porto, Imogen Parsons, Chris Alden

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