Religious leaders to advocate for DDR
As the new disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme gets underway in South Sudan, the government is making every effort to ensure its success.
The DDR programme, for example, was not suspended on account of austerity measures announced by the government in February 2012 when it shut down the country's oil production.
At a press briefing in Juba last May, National DDR Commission Chairperson William Deng Deng disclosed that the government had allocated four million South Sudanese pounds to the DDR programme.
More recently, the commission has begun outreach campaigns for religious and community leaders, who will in turn share information about the DDR programme with their communities.
"Timely, clear and correct information about DDR should reach both the actual DDR participants, former combatants, women associated with armed forces, and the communities receiving them," states the commission's website.
Supported by UNMISS, the commission held a training workshop on 13 June for church and community leaders representing the states of Western Bahr El-Ghazal, Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria where the country's first three DDR training centres are located.
About 300 former Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers are learning vocational skills under a pilot programme at the DDR training centre in Mapel, Western Bahr el-Ghazal. By the end of the year, two more centres are expected to be operational in Pariak, Jonglei state and Torit, Eastern Equatoria state.
"Why does (the commission) work with the church? Well, it's because our people believe the words that come out of the mouths of the church (leaders)," said Mr. Deng in his opening remarks at the workshop.
One of those church leaders praised the DDR programme for giving young people more opportunities in his Jonglei state community.
"DDR has done great things in Pariak, especially in creating jobs for the youth," said Jacob Wel Mabior, a pastor with the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. "I have come here today to learn about DDR to bring more information back to my community."
UNMISS officials noted that churches are a trusted source of news and views in South Sudan. During the 13 June workshop, the religious leaders were trained on all key messages of the new programme in order to convey the knowledge they acquired to their congregations.
Participants also received samples of peace cards designed by the DDR Public Information Taskforce to deliver peace messages in the form of a prayer and disseminate basic information about the DDR programme among the general population.
The new DDR programme is targeting 150,000 ex-combatants from the SPLA and other organized forces over the next eight years. The DDR candidates will receive training at seven centres that are expected to open in the coming years. Lasting three months, the training will focus on different practical skills aimed at facilitating the ex-combatants' transition into civilian life.