Integration of ex-combatants: Learning from other peace processes
JOHN PAUL LEDERACH, JOHN DARBY & MADHAV JOSHI
Integration of Maoist ex-combatants has remained one of the contentious issues in the beleaguered peace process in Nepal. After the UNMIN verification of combatants, the rehabilitation of some 4,000 child soldiers and even after the PLA came under control of the Special Committee, the issue of integration remains challenging. The recent modality proposed by the Nepal Army to create an integrated separate security force of 12,000 personnel seems to have created new common ground. These developments may suggest the integration issue will gain some needed momentum though the culture of mutual mistrust remains high as May 28 deadline looms only weeks away.
The integration of former combatants into state armed forces is not a feature of all peace settlements, although it happened in 12 cases detailed in the Peace Accords Matrix (PAM). Drawing on PAM data, we have selected three cases that might provide useful insights or guidelines for Nepal: South Africa, Mozambique, and Northern Ireland.
The 1993 interim South African constitution provided for the establishment of a South African Defense Force comprising combatants integrated from the former rebel groups and the 90,000-strong South African Defense Force (SADF), along with militias of the homelands, Transkei, Venda, Bophuthatswana, and Ciskei, totaling 11,000 soldiers. The ex-combatants comprised about 28,000 guerrillas of the ANC and 6,000 guerrillas of the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC). The ANC and PAC wanted reintegration and military reform to bolster the ANC-led government’s control over the armed forces. The SADF favored the absorption of the militias into the already established forces, led primarily by white officers. No timeline was set for the completion of demobilization and integration, but, by the end of 1996, the SANDF had become a transformed organization. Of the approximately 34,000 soldiers originally registered from the ANC and PAC, approximately 18,000 former ANC and PAC members — almost half of the rebel combatants — reported to the SANDF force during the 18-month reintegration process, which ended in November 1996. Of those integrated, almost 1,700, including 150 women, were appointed as officers, a remarkably high percentage. The integration process was monitored by the Joint Military Coordination Committee (JMCC). Those who chose to be demobilized received a demobilization gratuity and training.
A sharp cut in the defense budget persuaded the JMCC that the size of the SANDF was unsustainable. So a demobilization and/or rationalization process was also started. A Personnel Rationalization Work Group (PRWG) was instituted to oversee the rationalization process from within the SANDF. The composition of the PRWG included representatives from all the constituent forces, the Secretary for Defense and members of the British Military Advisory and Training Team. But the legislative framework was only in place in November 1996 when the Demobilization Act, which had retrospective effect, was passed. On August 25, 1995, Defense Minister Joe Modise announced that the SANDF strength would be cut from 135,000 to 75,000 members by 1999. Some former ANC and PAC members who were integrated also chose to be demobilized and received a gratuity and payouts.
In South Africa the JMCC was solely responsible for monitoring the demobilization/integration process. The integration process was completed before the new constitution was completed in December 1996. Delay in the demobilization and integration resulted in a sharp drop in the combatants reporting to be integrated or demobilized. This could have contributed to the higher crime rate in South Africa in the post-peace agreement phase.
Mozambique’s 1992 General Peace Agreement required all armed forces (government and rebels) to be completely demobilized and reintegrated. It also required the formation of a new Mozambican Defense Force (FADM) of 30,000 personnel, to which the government and rebels would supply an equal number of personnel. Demobilization was to be finished within six months, and a general election was to follow six months after that. The rebel party, the Mozambican Resistance Movement (RENAMO) set forth demands, including funds to support their transition to becoming an organized political party, a ban on private armed groups, and governorships in 5 out of the 10 provinces in Mozambique as conditions for demobilization. The first two demands were immediately met. On the last issue, the president and the RENAMO leader agreed in principle to unite the country under a single administration in preparation for the following year’s election. Demobilization did not move smoothly, and in September 1993, RENAMO said that it would participate in the October 1993 election without full demobilization of both armed forces. RENAMO’s position was criticized both by the government and the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ).
After missing the first demobilization and elections deadlines, RENAMO and FRELIMO (The Liberation Front of Mozambique) leaders reached an agreement on a definitive timetable for an election in October 1994, which expedited the process of approval of the electoral law, the confinement and demobilization of the troops, and the formation of a single army. As agreed, however, the demobilization did not begin on 1st March as RENAMO had yet to deliver to ONUMOZ its lists with the names of men to be demobilized and to join the future national army. Nevertheless, in order to complete the process in a timely manner, the government moved ahead with demobilization of its troops. A total of 91,691 (67,042 government and 24,649 RENAMO) soldiers had been registered by ONUMOZ. Some 78,078 of these (57,540 government and 20,538 RENAMO) were demobilized, while some of the remainder joined the new army and police force. Presidential and legislative elections took place in October 1994. By the end of the year, the new joint army of almost 12,000 troops had been formed, which was significantly less than the initially proposed 30,000 troops.
Mozambique’s experience of demobilization and reintegration has been a success. There was no visible internal hostility within the new armed forces. The Mozambique case is different from South Africa as it involved a complete demobilization of government and rebel armed forces and the creation of a new armed force. The demobilization and integration missed the first stipulated timetable, but complete demobilization and integration were preconditions for holding post-conflict elections, forcing the rebel to comply with the demobilization and reintegration process. Some members of the armed forces from both sides were not interested in joining the new army as they were given attractive reintegration package.
Northern Ireland´s is regarded as one of the more successful peace processes. Integration of the Provisional IRA (PIRA) or other republican groups into the army was never part of the negotiations before or after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. None of the republican groups using violence aspired to join the British army, nor would they have been acceptable. However, the reform of the police force to make it more representative of different groups in the community was a key part of the agreement.
The agreement on policing (the 1999 Patten Report) introduced a positive discrimination policy in order to raise the proportion of Catholics in the police service to 30 percent by 2011(although around 43 percent of Northern Ireland’s population are Catholic, they comprised only 8.3 percent of the police force). The agreement on policing set an annual target of recruiting 50 percent of its officers from a Catholic background and 50 percent from a non-Catholic background. This was accompanied by major changes in training. It was also accompanied by a policy of offering attractive packages to existing police officers to encourage early retirement, thus creating vacancies for new recruits. By 2011, the proportion of officers from the Catholic Community had risen from 8.3 percent to almost 30 percent . The implementation of policing reform has been almost universally accepted, although it took 14 years after the Good Friday Agreement.
In Northern Ireland, there was no desire from the IRA for integration into the army. The main emphasis was on police reform and the progressive targets for new recruitment, with aims to have a measurable effect on the composition of the police force including involvement of other under-represented groups, notably women. To facilitate the new recruits, UK government funding was provided to encourage early retirements. There was substantial retraining of ex-combatants before they join the new integrated police force (now called the Police Service of Northern Ireland). Opinion polls indicate strong support across the community for the new police force.
Lessons for Nepal from the Experience of Other Peace Processes
The negotiation and implementation of integration took longer than anticipated in all cases, so Nepal is not an exception. As with the other examples, Nepal needs to set targets and provide careful training. With the UNMIN exit monitoring the integration process poses significant challenges requiring consensus oversight among the key actors. In all comparative cases the overall size of the armed forces fell significantly even after integration had taken place, as incentives were given to encourage both demobilization and early retirement. This experience may have particular relevance for Nepal, as the current size of the armed forces may not be financially sustainable in the long term. In Nepal, integration of marginalized groups, especially Madeshi, into Nepal’s Army would help the democratization process and make the new integrated security forces more acceptable among the general public.
Writers are based in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, USA. The Peace Accords Matrix is a comprehensive database of peace agreement implementations and can be accessed at https://peaceaccords.nd.edu Two more articles on constitution writing and power sharing by the same authors will appear in this newspaper on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively