Supporting ex-combatants - Peace Direct

Supporting ex-combatants

In conflict zones around the world, many combatants want to leave their life of violence – but can see no way out. Scared of reprisals and unsure how to survive in civilian life, they become trapped in a cycle of fighting.

Disarming fighters is crucial for ending ongoing armed violence. Providing them with skills or a livelihood keeps them out of the militia for the long term.

We support local people to help ex-combatants disarm and return home, and build a life free from violence. This helps ex-combatants to live – not just survive – when they return home.


Supporting ex-combatants

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.


Find out about child soldiers

Blaise has helped rescue 1500 child soldiers and ex-combatants from the bush in DR Congo. R
Blaise has helped rescue 1500 child soldiers from the bush in DR Congo. Read his story.


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.


A rescued child soldier holds a pig


What we do

DR Congo

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.


Child soldiers

Read about our urgent work rescuing and resettling child soldiers who have been abducted by militia rebels.


Kakule Jaques, 14, lived with his family out in the bush. He had three goats and was visiting his parents when on the way he met two people who told him they knew somewhere where he could feed his goats. It was a trick and he was taken off to join the Shabani militia. He spent a year and half with the Militia before making his escape. Through CRC he as aquired certification and a goat which has since given birth toa kid, further helping his rehabilitation into normal life. North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. July 2016. Photo by Greg Funnell.
Photo by Greg Funnell.



Voices from the ground: Mirundi's story

Mirundi is 26 years old. He has lived in the village of Mutarule, DR Congo, all his life. When Mirundi was 20, he joined a local militia group.

“I was 20 when I joined the local militia group. I mainly joined because there was no opportunity of a job for me here. But also my community was continually attacked by other tribes and I wanted to help protect it.

Most of the time in the militia we robbed drivers on the road, or other communities, smoked or fought with other rebel groups of different tribes.

I saw that there was no benefit to me to stay so when I was 25, I left.

FOCHI’s project has allowed me and other ex-combatants to become involved in the community. It has given me something to work for.

I no longer consider re-joining the militia as I did before. With the money we make from the goat farm, the other ex-combatants and I would like to open a restaurant on the roadside. I would also like to continue to breed goats.”

-Mirundi, reintegrated ex-combatant



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