Our partners find and persuade rebel fighters to lay down their arms and start a new life.
They persuade militia commanders to release child soldiers, so they can go back to their families and schools. They provide them with the skills and tools to earn a living, for example by farming or tailoring.
But rescuing fighters from the bush is just the first step. Providing alternatives to a life of violence, tackling discrimination and helping ex-combatants resettle into civilian life is key to stopping them returning.
Why it matters
Too often, approaches to rescuing and resettling armed militia members focus only on the rescue – and not enough on the reintegration.
The community they are going back to has to be ready to accept ex-combatants, or they will not be able to settle down. Many programmes for demobilising and resettling combatants (known as DDR) find they do not stay in their villages but drift back into armed groups. That is ineffective and expensive.
It is estimated that 250,000 children are fighting in wars all over the world. Recruited by force or lured by the false promise of an escape from poverty. They are living a life no child should ever lead.
Ex-combatants, both children and adults, face stigmatisation and prejudice upon returning home. Without job prospects, education and sometimes a family, it can be too easy to flee back into the bush.
Our partners work with local communities to accept returning combatants. They find them a foster family if their parents cannot be found. And they provide counselling and skills training as a positive alternative to a life of violence.
We are determined to support child soldiers, ex-combatants and others at risk of joining armed groups to resettle into their communities for the long term – ensuring local people are at the centre of effective community-based approaches.
Between July and September 2016 our local partner, Centre Résolution Conflits, rescued 116 child soldiers – 71 boys and 45 girls.
The rescued children were taken to live with a foster family for around one month, until our partner could find and establish contact with the children’s families.
What we do
In DR Congo we support two local organisations that rescue and resettle ex-combatants and child soldiers. In North Kivu CRC’s community based approach has won widespread recognition, and ensures returning fighters have a practical alternative to a life in the militia. In South Kivu our local partner, FOCHI, includes ex-combatants in community agricultural projects, to break down fear and mistrust that divides communities.
The long term, sustainable approach of local organisations informs much of our advocacy work around DR Congo. National and international DDR plans are adopting a more community-based approach, something we are determined to increase.
Read about our urgent work rescuing and resettling child soldiers who have been abducted by militia rebels.