Reintegration or Re-recruitment: Preventing Old Wars from Fueling New Wars

By Ochan Hannington

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), devastated Uganda, and its neighbors, for decades, and its leader Joseph Kony became infamous with the Kony2012 campaign. An estimated 12,906 fighters have returned to civilian after fighting with the LRA, but when fighters return from armed groups their prospects are often limited. Now, experts are alarmed that many are being re-recruited into other violent groups.

"You have youth who are incredibly vulnerable to armed group recruitment,” said Sean Poole, from Invisible Children.

“Whether that is forced recruitment because they live in a really remote location, or incentivized recruitment, that we see so much of in the Central African Republic or the Democratic Republic of the Congo where armed groups become the most viable employment offer in a region," Mr Poole said.

Returned LRA fighter, Ogot, was abducted when he was 15, and spent 5 years with the rebel group. He told us that violence is a difficult pattern to change after returning.

"Because, you know, when you are in the bush your mind is thinking of killing, arresting [abducting] others. Then afterwards you want to destroy the whole world - you have that black heart," Ogot said.

"We continue to see victims of one conflict be enveloped into another and we are seeing that right now with central Africa and South Sudan," said Mr Poole.

"I would say there's no easy solution to these problems but we see the strongest efforts to push back against armed-group recruitment at the local level, so we really push that we should be supporting local leaders who are developing community-to-community interventions to support victims that are returning and limit the exposure of individuals to armed-group recruitment,” he said.

Aid agencies are providing psycho-social support and conflict-sensitive education for returnees.

"Like Gulu Support the Children Organization (GUSCO), and those of Windle Trust, who gave us advice, and they were even taking others to school,” said Ogot.

“GUSCO helped us a lot, giving me advice. You could stay there and [they would] counsel you like they were your real parents."