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The Political Involvement of Ex-Combatants in Liberia: Policy Feedback Effects of DDR programs

Johanna Soderstrom
Uppsala Universitet
Johanna Soderstrom
Uppsala Universitet
Open Panel

Abstract

Current research on democratization and peacebuilding tend to emphasize macro-level issues such as institutional arrangements or elite group formation and compliance, and thus mainly recognize the inherently different goals of democratization and peacebuilding. However, this paper suggests that we need to look at how these two parallel processes interlink at the micro-level. Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) programs and the rarely studied political impact of these programs among ex-combatants offer such a link. The reintegration programs are training programs the ex-combatants participate in, which include apprenticeships, vocational training and formal schooling. In this paper various types of reintegration programs are studied in terms of their ramifications on the political culture among ex-combatants in Liberia. This paper critiques earlier research for treating reintegration programs as a dichotomy, and suggests that we need to look at such programs in more detail if we are to understand their socializing effect on the Liberian youth. If we are to understand the varying impacts of these programs, we need in particular to take a closer look at their design. The preliminary findings of this paper suggest that the work methods employed within the programs, as well as composition of beneficiaries matter for ex-combatants'' relation with politics. The design and procedures in these programs offer cognitive cues, and through that an interpretive mechanism is activated with repercussions for how this group relates to politics. This paper uses extensive fieldwork in Liberia and focus group interviews with 101 ex-combatants who experienced six different reintegration experiences.