En français:E x-combattants

A former militia member who is now working as a trader thanks to support from his community and Caritas Goma. Credit: Caritas Goma]

The situation in the eastern Congo province of North Kivu continues to deteriorate since conflict resumed in March after hundreds of former rebels defected from the army to join a renegade general.
Keeping ex-rebels from returning to the bush is difficult. Poverty, lack of opportunities and lack of acceptance within their communities for their past lives, can lead the former fighters to pick up the gun once more.

Caritas Goma is the diocesan Caritas operating in the area. Part of its peacebuilding programme aims to give the ex-combatants a future . Caritas works with the local villagers and the former fighters to create employment opportunities for the latter and improve relations between the two groups.

Caritas organises the former fighters into groups of three plus one member of the community. Together they build small community projects. They also receive specialist training. The jobs range from motorcycle taxis to farming, working in mills to hairdressing, plumbing to catering and so on. Some have a wider impact, such as reforestation work which improves the environment.

The work improves the living conditions of the former soldiers and their families as well as bringing them a greater stability. By involving locals, the programmes has helped create greater harmony. Jules was once a rebel fighter who is now a trader. “I no longer use a weapon to terrorise the people,” he said.

Some 260 ex-combatants and 110 members of their host communities were involved in the UNDP funded programme between September 2010 and march 2011 in Rutshuru and Masisi.