Rehabilitation and Reintegration of the Maoist Ex-Combatants in Nepal: Issues, Challenges and Potential Lessons
Subedi, D. B., Contributions to Nepalese Studies
When an armed conflict ends, either by a peace negotiation or a military victory, the succeeding phase, characterized as post-conflict peacebuilding, often strives to deal with ex-combatants who are perceived as a threat to peace, stability and post-conflict development. Post-conflict peacebuilding generally encompasses a three-dimensional process, addressing security, creating and / or transforming institutions and structures needed for political settlement as well as transformation, and promoting socio-economic recovery and growth (Hanggi 2005:12). However, in the post Cold War era, much of the anxiety of the international actors engaged in post-conflict peacebuilding largely concentrates on the security threats arising from the non-state military structures and the ex-combatants who fundamentally challenge the state in military terms from within the boundaries of the nascent states. Thus, in response to addressing post-conflict security challenges posed by ex-combatants and their insurgent organization, disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR (1)) has emerged as a technology of post-conflict social engineering within the framework of peacebuilding.
Traditionally post-conflict security and stability remain central to the core objectives of DDRR programme, however recognizing the inextricable links as well as mutual reinforcement between security and post-conflict economic recovery and development, a revisionist approach to DDRR has attempted to broaden its focus and scope, adding development dimension to reintegration and rehabilitation (R&R) phases (Coletta et al, 1996; SIDDR, 2006; Muggah 2006, 2009). Consequently, DDRR initiatives have shifted away from security focused 'minimalist approach' to the 'maximalist' understanding of reintegration in which interventions to maintain security and stability are sought to accomplish in tandem with wider post-conflict socio-economic development initiatives (Coletta et al, 1996; Knight and Ozerdem, 2004; Muggah 2006).
A key outcome of the maximalist shift has offered more spaces for non-state actors and civil society organizations, including bi-lateral donor governments, non-government organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations and the private sector to engage in DDRR programmes (Porto et al, 2007). The broadening of the scope and focus, nonetheless, makes DDRR a complicated process of post-conflict social engineering, with several inherent dilemmas and challenges. Some of these challenges include selecting appropriate beneficiaries (UNDP, 2005; Annan and Patel, 2009), balancing intervention and support between economic and social aspects of reintegration and rehabilitation (R&R), and the way the nexus between economic and social reintegration is expected to achieve the core objective of DDRR: to transform the identity of ex-combatants from militants to civilian.
In a DDRR processes emerged from a peace deal between the national government and insurgent organization in question, the challenges are further augmented by marginalization of the core objective of DDRR programme by transitional politics as well as politics of DDRR. In a DDRR generated by political negotiation, the significance and objective of DDRR may be political and, often times, it may appear to be a decisive agenda in the post-conflict power sharing. If DDRR is articulated in peace negotiation document, the process is also seen as a part of the initiative that attempts to transform an insurgent organization into a credible political force, as is the case in Nepal. Thus, trapped between the dilemmas of dual transformation, that of insurgents and their organization, identity transformation of ex-combatants can be a highly political issue. Unlocking the difficulty of political sensitivity in ways that might support successful R&R requires a true political commitment by all the actors involved.
Identity transformation of ex-combatants has strong economic and social dimensions and it is indeed a long term complicated process that might require collective efforts of ex-combatants, their families and communities together. This necessitates meticulously designed programme in which, in addition to economic interventions and supports targeted to ex-combatants, the social entities like the families of combatants, local communities as well as the social networks, trust, confidence and social interaction between ex-combatants and communities play an absolutely salient role (Knight, 2001; Ginifer, 2003; Hazan, 2007). However, in practice, social reintegration often becomes marginalized by relatively higher emphasis on elements of economic reintegration such as vocational and skill development trainings and entrepreneurship development supports to ex-combatants. Although the role of economic reintegration is absolutely vital, in many cases, successful rehabilitation and reintegration will require a through community reconciliation which will encourage ex-combatants and communities to move towards a shared future. Lack of a strong emphasis on social reintegration not only means low level of community participation in and ownership to R&R programmes but also it can lead to new social tensions between ex-combatants and the local communities. Apparently, the local communities in post-conflict societies is often comprised of other war affected social categories such as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and war victim families (Annan and Patel, 2009; Muggah, 2009).
Currently, rehabilitation and reintegration of verified minor and late recruits (VMLR) Maoist ex-combatants (also known as disqualified ex-combatants) is under way in Nepal. In the Nepalese peace process, integration of the Maoist ex-combatants into the Nepal army has become a highly contentious issue which is constantly impeding progress of peace process. Consequently, rehabilitation and reintegration of disqualified ex-combatants into communities has unfortunately become marginalized and overshadowed by the concerns, contentions and debates about integrating the verified ex-combatants into Nepal army. However, marginalization of rehabilitation and reintegration programme can be detrimental to peacebuilding in the long run. Similarly, according to on-going political development, it is likely that a portion of the ex-combatants currently residing in cantonments will be integrated into Nepal army while others will choose to rehabilitate and reintegrate into communities. Recognizing the salient role of R&R in the Nepali peace process, the main focus of this article is placed on rehabilitation and reintegration rather than army integration. Understanding strengths and challenges of rehabilitation and reintegration at present is essential not only to avoid conflict risk that can be generated by VMLRs but also the lessons learned from the rehabilitation programme will provide some insights to rehabilitation of ex-combatants in future.
Examining contemporary debates and dilemmas surrounding DDRR from different contexts across the globe, this article argues that economic and social aspects of R&R should receive equally balanced emphasis in order to successfully reintegrate and rehabilitate and eventually transform the identity of the Maoist ex-combatants from militants to civilians in Nepal. It suggests that balancing the supports to the ex-combatants and the local communities, the on-going programme should restrengthen community development approach to R&R. It further suggests to initiating community reconciliation as early as possible and creating a strong synergy and complementary between R&R and reconciliation is extremely important as these two processes have strong shared objectives as well as mutually reinforcing character in post-conflict peacebuilding. Similarly, putting communities and the ex-combatants at the heart of the programme and working toward linking R&R with long term socio-economic development plan can maximize impacts of rehabilitation in building sustainable peace in Nepal. This will, however, require true political willingness and commitment by all political players as well as de-politicization of DDRR.
Reintegration and Rehabilitation (R&R): Issues and Debates Reintegration and Rehabilitation (R&R): From a Security Focused Approach to Long-term Socio-economic Development
In the 1980s and 1990s, security challenges emerging from the legacy of civil war and armed conflict as well as from ex-combatants who become the victims of incomplete or tailed reintegration captured the attention of the international community engaged in DDRR and peacebuilding. Consequently, the actions around DDRR were guided by the 'security centric' assumption that if the demobilized combatants are not provided with viable and sustainable economic opportunities, their propensity to rearm or earn a living by use of violence can be almost undeniable (Colletta et al 19996; Kinight and Ozerdem 2004; Muggah 2005). Consequently, DDRR programs at this time remained highly 'security-focused' in their nature. In this regard, concentrating exclusively on ex-combatants who are thought to be the spoilers of peace, reintegration programs aimed to incentivize the ex-combatants as the primary beneficiary of reintegration in order to motivate them to comply with peace process. It is largely anticipated that the demobilized combatants who are provided with a viable and sustainable alternative livelihood opportunity as part of reintegration strategies, may not run the risk to rearm, remobilize and commit crime and violence to make a livelihood. Several empirical evidences suggest that unsuccessful DDRR leads to ex-combatants' susceptibility to involvement in different forms of violence and criminal activities during the transition from armed conflict to peace (Coolier, 1994; Colletta et al, 1996; Knight and Ozerdem, 2004; Dezinesa, 2008). Further, incomplete reintegration creates conditions in which ex-combatants may be tempted to make a livelihood that involves rent-seeking behaviour such as collecting forced donations and illegal taxations (Colletta et al, 1996:18).
However, over the time, recognizing inextricable links between security and socio-economic development, their mutual reinforcing character, and the way socio-economic development provides enlarged opportunities for ex-combatants to get sustainable economic opportunities, the strategies of an approach to DDRR moved away from a security focused domain to the socioeconomic spectrum of peacebuilding. This produced recommendations to create strong synergy between reintegration and longer-term post-conflict socio-economic recovery and development in societies recovering from conflict (Coletta eta al 1996; SIDDR 2006). This move is marked by a shift from a 'minimalist perspective' focusing exclusively on security to the 'maximalist' understanding of reintegration, focusing on socio-economic development deemed necessary for successful reintegration programme (Muggah, 2006). Indeed, this shift is driven by the assumption that insecurity deepened by unregulated small arms, landmines and itinerant ex-combatants who use them, can eventually affect sustainable investment, good governance, and ultimately, human development in the post conflict environment (Muggah and Batchelor, 2002; Muggah, 2005). Therefore, DDRR programs are also strategized to contribute to fragile post-conflict socio-economic development by gravitating activities around the nexus of security and development in order to maximize socio-economic conditions needed for successful reintegration.
Targeting Dilemmas: Individual or Community?
The 'maximalist' shift has, however, induced a dilemma about who should be the target of R&R: ex-combatants or the local communities? The following section captures the debate.
Ex-combatant Focused Model
Perceiving individual ex-combatants as key actors of post-conflict insecurity as well as potential spoilers of the peace processes, ex-combatant focused …
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Publication information: Article title: Rehabilitation and Reintegration of the Maoist Ex-Combatants in Nepal: Issues, Challenges and Potential Lessons. Contributors: Subedi, D. B. - Author. Journal title: Contributions to Nepalese Studies. Volume: 38. Issue: 2 Publication date: July 2011. Page number: 143+. © 2008 Research Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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