Militiamen register at a disarmament site in Bunia
BUNIA, 29 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - At least 1,100 former militias have arrived at transit sites in Ituri, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in the past three days, ahead of a 30 June ultimatum by the Congolese army for them to disarm, an official said.
"I have surrendered my weapons at last, to help rebuild my country," Ngajole Lipri, one of the disarmed militia leaders, said on Wednesday at a disarmament site it Bunia, the main town in Ituri District, Orientale Province.
Another ex-combatant, Sylvie Mave, 20, urged others still in the bush to disarm. "We have left the suffering in the bush," she said.
The number of militiamen surrendering their guns at the 12 transit sites across the district is overwhelming, an official of the National Disarmament Commission, known by its French acronym CONADER, said.
The officer in charge of CONADER's community office in Ituri, François Nguz, said one of the sites that had initially planned to accommodate 100 ex-combatants per day had received 280 in two days.
The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) identified 18 children, including one girl, among the disarmed militiamen.
Those who surrendered weapons included 600 in Nizi, Fataki and Dele sites, Stany Kituma, a site manager said.
"Due to the massive disarmament, we intend to double the capacity of the [Bunia] site to receive up to 800 ex-combatants," Claude Diyongo, a CONADER official in Ituri, said.
"These are the real militiamen - those who were fighting in the bush - who are surrendering. This was not the case in the past," a disarmament official, who requested anonymity, said.
On arrival in Bunia, the militias are received by the Moroccan contingent of UN peacekeepers. Then, the former militiamen receive a kit comprising pans, toothbrushes, clothes and shoes for their two-day stay at the site.
CONADER then conducts identification of the ex-combatants to determine those who had returned to the bush a second time. So far, none have been detected, Diyongo, the CONADER official, said.
Those disarmed are then taken through an orientation process and then choose either to enlist into the army or the community of their choice. As yet, none has chosen the army.
"The ex-combatants opt to stay," Diyongo said. "They gain more by being reintegrated into the community."
Before they leave the disarmament sites, each is paid US $110 and given two pans, a radio and tarpaulin sheets for shelter. They also get a disarmament certificate.