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The book launch started with opening remarks and the introduction of the book editor, Ibrahim Bangura, and the two discussants, Dr. Nelson Oppong and Professor Azeez Olaniyan, by the moderator and director of the SSRC’s APN and NextGen program, Dr. Cyril Obi. This was followed by an overview of the book by the editor. He explained that the book’s main objective was to highlight the success or failure of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) processes in Africa, and highlight the importance of collaboration and innovative thinking in enhancing the policies and practices on DDR and peacebuilding in the continent. Also of importance were its reflections on the prospects for DDR in Africa in the future. .

Dr. Bangura’s overview was followed by the reflections of some chapter contributors to the book. Irma Specht, spoke to her chapter on “The Cultural Realities of the White Army in South Sudan and Questioning DDR as an Appropriate Tool,” by analyzing the history, evolution and goals of the armed group and its links to the Nuer ethnic group. She noted the shift in its objectives from just protecting cattle, to obtaining more wealth and protecting its community. Irma argued that the White Army was not a paramilitary group as assumed in policy documents. She concluded that DDR could not be an effective tool in the case of the White Army by pointing out that as an old cultural institution with needs for being armed, such as protecting the village and animals from armed intruders, it cannot be demobilized.

Another contributor of a chapter titled, “Somalia: Towards A Fourth Generation DDR?.” Dr. Gibril Sesay explored the complexities of conflicts and DDR in Somalia. He made a case for rethinking and reconceptualizing the use of DDR, including interferences and approaches to stabilization and peacekeeping in the country. Following his overview of several generations of DDR, in Somalia, Dr. Sesay argued that the situation is so nuanced and everchanging that traditional approaches to DDR need to be critically analyzed to address the uniqueness of the situation within Somalia itself.

In presenting her chapter on, “Lessons Learned and Promising Approaches to Gender-Responsive DDR Programming in Africa,” Dr. Luisa Maria Dietrich-Ortega, focused on lessons learned from her 20-year long journey as a researcher, studying gender-responsive DDR. She spoke to the global pattern of the marginalization of women combatants, even though throughout ancient history, women have always been present and actively involved in armed groups. Dr. Dietrich-Ortega noted that women’s contributions to DDR have remained low and largely unacknowledged. She encouraged researchers to challenge and question the gendered assumptions underpinning DDR, including the marginalization of women and girl ex-combatants, and advocate for greater gender equality in DDR.

Speaking to a coauthored chapter contribution, “From Combatants to Civilians: A Never-Ending Transition in Zimbabwe,” Dr. Simbarashe Gukurume, explored, DDR in Zimbabwe, focusing on how ex-combatants interacted with the state, especially in the post-liberation era. He explained how the precariousness of war veterans’ livelihoods makes them easily mobilized by political elites to engage in acts of intimidation and violence, especially those within the ruling party, ZANU-PF. Dr. Simbarashe also the established a link between veterans of Zimbabwe’s war of national liberation, and their post-liberation remobilization by the ruling ZANU-PF party. He, therefore, argued, that the DDR process in Zimbabwe was an incomplete process, because it focused mainly on demobilization and disarmament, and not on the reintegration of ex-combatants.

In his intervention, the first discussant of the book, Professor Azeez Olaniyan, spoke about silences surrounding damage—physical, economical, emotional, psychological, suffered in the course of conflict, and how these narratives are not often captured in several DDR processes in the African continent. He argued that the voices of perpetrators of violent conflict were usually overlooked by the quick-switch series of DDR programs aimed at contributing to ending war, and underscored the importance of examining DDR from perspectives informed by the experiences of combatants, both active and non-active.

The second discussant, Dr. Nelson Oppong, drew attention to the risks inherent in the distinct binaries inherent to DDR—in particular, the distinction between victims and perpetrators, illustrating this point by noting the difficulty that could arise when addressing the issue of where to place child soldiers. Similarly, he critiqued how DDR tends to frame victims as passive, and perpetrators as people who have agency. Another binary Dr. Oppong identified was the false distinction that DDR makes between violence and non-violence in relation the transition from the conflict to the post-conflict phase. He also advocated for a grounded analysis of, and repositioning of the discourse around DDR in ways that enables it to complement meaningful democratic engagement.

There were particular highlights during the Q&A session. Ibrahim Bangura was asked how the book addressed government complacency in DDR, especially considering the Nigeria’s,’ and other African governments’ complacency in reintegrating soldiers into society. He responded by noting that the challenge of disarming Boko Haram lies in the disconnect and absence of synergy between state and federal government approaches to DDR programs for combatants. With no clear strategy for integrating ex-combatants into areas lacking government control, the risk of a “revolving door syndrome” persists, undermining any significant DDR efforts. Irma Spect was questioned about addressing the involvement of religious parties in DDR, focusing on how to address this group within the process. She emphasized the significance of considering both religious and traditional leaders, noting their roles in fostering forgiveness, tolerance, and cleansing within communities.

Following the Q&A session, Ibrahim Bangura expressed his thanks to the APN team, chapter contributors, and discussants. In his concluding remarks, he noted that some of the points raised would be addressed in his forthcoming book volume.. He highlighted the enduring relevance of studying DDR, citing ongoing struggles in Somalia, DRC, and other African countries. He also pointed to new challenges to DDR represented by the emerging phenomena of violent gangs and cliques in African cities, particularly in post-conflict settings, where disillusioned youth are seeking recognition and identity through various means. The event was ended by the moderator who expressed thanks to the editor, book contributors, his colleagues, and attendees.