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10.08.2004 Regional News

Disarmament must be voluntary - Mankatah

By GNA

Accra, Aug. 10, GNA - Brigadier General Charles Mankatah, Commandant of the Kofi Annan International Peace Training Centre (KAIPTC), on Tuesday said disarmament was one of the most difficult tasks for peacekeepers to implement.

He explained that attempts at coercive disarmament had failed and it was now widely accepted that Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) must be a voluntary process that required absolute co-operation and compliance from belligerent parties.

Welcoming 27 participants drawn from various organs of UN in Africa and Europe at the beginning of a three-day international workshop on: "Lessons Learned From Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration in Africa" Gen Mankatah noted that it had been extremely hard to collect all weapons, even at the end of an armed struggle, when the remaining conditions of societal insecurity created high incentives for the maintenance and acquisition of weapons by former combatants.

He said most African rebels had learnt about poverty and injustice as normal realities of life and that was often why they joined a rebellion in the first place.

Gen Mankatah said for those people, reintegration smacked of surrendering their principles and ideals for life in a society, which in many ways was plagued with more problems than they experienced in the field.

He said, "we tend to lose sight of the fact that there are both quantitative and qualitative dimensions to demobilisation and reintegration, the quantitative dimension is the tangible side of the process that can be measured by counting the number of soldiers reporting to assembly areas, turning in weapons and eventually being relocated to home communities.

"Qualitative dimension is non tangible, it has to do with reversing indoctrination of militaristic ideologies and values including that of violence as a means of conflict resolution.

He said, "demobilization needs to be comprehensive enough to uproot the instruments and organization of violence, as well as the ideology of violence. This implies inculcating alternative values and non-violent means of conflict resolution".

The three-day workshop is being organised by the Institute for Security Studies based in South Africa (ISS) and Kofi Annan Peace Training Centre (KAPTC).

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