The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Over 78,300 Reintegrated By Demobilisation Commission

THE Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC) has said it has demobilised and reintegrated over 78,300 former combatants since its establishment in 2001.

Commission officials said this during a meeting in Kigali on Sunday, held under the theme "Reintegrating soldiers, Bringing Peace in the Great Lakes Region."

According to Jean Sayinzoga, RDRC chairman, the reintegration process targeted the various categories of former armed groups, including the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA), the former government forces of pre-genocidal era (FAR) and militiamen from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militants.

RPA is the liberation movement that ended the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, while FDLR, now based in eastern DRC, is mainly composed of former government soldiers and a paramilitary militia known as interahamwe.

FDLR is largely blamed for the Genocide.

The demobilisation and reintegration process aims at bringing peace and unity in Rwanda and in the Great Lakes Region, he said.

"All those reintegrated receive retirement package, whether you were with RPA, FDLR or ex-FAR, we help all of them integrate in communities since they are all our citizenry," Sayinzoga said

He said that over 13,000 former ex-FAR combatants were reintegrated.

He added that the fact the commission is reintegrating combatants in FDLR and FAR is the way of bringing peace in the region as they involve in conflict there by distabilising not only Rwanda but also regional countries, like the DRC which has been their base for over a decade.

Francis Musoni, the coordinator at RDRC, said that the veterans have been encouraged to join cooperatives for income-generating activities.

"They are now are grouped in 131 cooperatives and are engaged in different activities; most of them are now economically empowered," Musoni said, adding that the veterans are also enlisted to help in the implementation of various government programmes in their respective communities.

Some demobilsed former combatants have returned to school, including technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, he said.

"Each person chose for themselves what to study. We only advise what can be important for them and support them to pursue courses of their choice," Musoni said.

The commission also plans to provide an integrated rehabilitation and production workshop for disabled ex-combatants, he added.

Veterans appreciated the way the commission has helped them.

Ezra Byilingiro, an ex-FAR who was reintegrated in 200, said that the commission has reintegrated him in the same way demobilized former RPA solders were catered for.

He laughed off rumours that previously circulated that he had been killed.

"I was reintegrated and received training in mechanical engineering. Now I have a decent living, I thought it would never happen because prior to my decision to return home from DRC, we had been told that one was shot upon repatriation."

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