DRC: Former combatants gain skills and income through reintegration

Following his demobilisation, Wathum was trained in carpentry in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Jin Hee Dieu/UNDP)
Following his demobilisation, Wathum was trained in carpentry in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Jin Hee Dieu/UNDP)

For 32-year old Wathum Ukecha, life has taken a turn for the better since he volunteered to be demobilized after four years as a fighter in the forests of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Wathum is one of 160 people – mainly ex-combatants, vulnerable women and school drop-outs– who were trained in farming, cattle breeding or carpentry as part of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project for ex-combatant reintegration in Ituri district, on the country’s eastern border.

Highlights

  • The ethnic violence in Ituri between 1999 and 2004 resulted in 50,000 deaths and approximately 600,000 displaced persons.
  • The project aims to improve social cohesion, provide access to basic social services and stimulate the local economy.
  • The US$5 million project is funded by the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security.
  • Since 2009, approximately 300,000 people have benefited from the reconstruction and rehabilitation of basic infrastructure.

After six months of carpentry training, Wathum received a tool kit to help him start working. Since then, his volume of orders has grown significantly. “I earn an average of USD 30 per week in my job as a carpenter. Thanks to our capital, my wife has also been able to start a business.”

The training is part of a broader project - the Community Empowerment and Peace-building in Ituri (CEPI)- implemented in Ituri since 2009 by several United Nations agencies, and which aims to improve social cohesion, provide access to basic social services and stimulate the local economy.

Over the past three years, more than 300,000 people have benefited from infrastructure built through the initiative, including three each of police stations, modern markets and basic health care centers.

With his business providing a regular income, Wathum joined a group of like-minded entrepreneurs, who apply for loans of between $100 and $200 on a rotational basis to boost their businesses.  The borrower commits to paying back some of the loan amount each week, and is supported by the group if he or she defaults.

“If I were alone, I would never obtain such a sum,” says Wathum. “Thanks to this, we can buy gas for our machines more easily, as well as nails and parts.”

The US$5 million CEPI initiative is funded by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security.

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