Ituri demobilisation wins UNDP support

The demobilisation of former members of various armed groups in Ituri district in the northwest Democratic Republic of Congo is being supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) after a deal with the government.

The UN resident coordinator in the DRC, Ross Mountain, said the demobilisation exercise would lead to better security and improved provision of humanitarian assistance in Ituri, which has been ravaged by bloody ethnic conflict since 1999.

"This agreement will have an important impact on the stabilisation of Ituri. It will boost the local economy with free circulation of goods and people and strengthen humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable populations," said Mountain. The UNDP is providing US$3 million for the project.

More than six ethnically based armed groups have fought intermittently, leaving more than 50,000 people dead and another 400,000 displaced.

Agreements between the government and armed groups in Ituri outline plans to disarm about 4,500 militiamen with assistance from the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC). In exchange, the government proposed an amnesty for the signatories and agreed to recognise officers from the groups.

"The government of DRC has shown its intention to have a stable reintegration process in Ituri," said Mountain. "We hope this programme constitutes a new step towards security and prosperity in Ituri," he added.

According to Fernando Larrauri, the head of UNDP's post-conflict unit in the DRC, the demobilisation process will take three months.

"Those demobilised will have the option of reintegration through either apprenticeship or being helped to start an income-generating activity," said Larrauri.

ei/re/jn/mw