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Demobilization Efforts in Congo Threatened by Lack of Funds - 2002-10-08


The International Organization for Migration is warning that unless it gets more money soon, it will be forced to stop its efforts to demobilize soldiers in the Republic of Congo. The organization says it has only enough money to continue until the end of November.

Officials of the International Organization for Migration say they need an additional $4.5 million for their work in the Republic of Congo. If they get the money, they say they will be able to demobilize up to 15,000 militiamen. If they do not get the money, they say there could be more trouble.

A spokesman for the group, Jean Philippe Chauzy, says if former combatants are not reintegrated into society, there could be more bloodshed in the Republic of Congo. "We will have several thousand militiamen, combatants that will be roaming the countryside and the town and will have little other choice than to use their weapons to keep themselves alive," he said.

Mr. Chauzy estimates that 30,000 unemployed young men joined militias during the late 1990s, primarily as a means of survival. At the time, the Republic of Congo was torn apart by ethnic and political rivalries, and by joining militias the men believed they had a greater chance of getting food and shelter.

Mr. Chauzy says a cease-fire struck two years ago between the Brazzaville government and rebels encouraged fighters to disband and disarm. He says the International Organization for Migration has played a key role in the process, but more work must be done. "This program has achieved quite a lot. It has managed to collect and destroy more than 11,000 weapons, small light weapons but also heavy weapons, and it has reintegrated more than 8,000 former combatants," he said.

In addition to the Republic of Congo, the International Organization for Migration has carried out demobilization programs elsewhere in Africa, including Angola and Mozambique.

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