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Sixth disarmament centre opens in Ituri - UNDP

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NAIROBI, 23 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - Another disarmament transit centre has opened in Bunia, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where at least 3,300 ex-combatants have been disarmed, demobilised and prepared for reintegration into the national army, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The opening of the latest centre brings to six these facilities in the war-torn Ituri District, UNDP said in a statement issued on Monday in Bunia.

UNDP said plans were underway to open a seventh site in Aru, 180 km northeast of Bunia.

"So far, 21 of the disarmed have been adult women and the majority are children," UNDP reported.

It said the Congolese government's disarmament and community reinsertion plan in Ituri aimed at disarming and reintegrating some 15,000 combatants, of whom 6,000 were children.

At least 1,900 of those so far admitted to the sites have been under 18 years old, UNDP said. Some 300 of them are girls.

The transit site in Kpandroma, north of Bunia, UNDP reported, "is on top of the disarmament scoreboard, with almost 1,300 demobilised within the framework of the [US] $10.5 million programme". The facility is for the disarmament and demobilisation of ex-combatants primarily from the Force nationale et intégrationiste (FNI) militia group.

Multilateral donors, among them Japan, France, Sweden and Spain, as well as UNDP, are supporting the Ituri disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme.

UNDP said the newly opened site in Bunia had received ex-combatants from five different armed groups.

"They are disarmed at four locations surrounding Bunia town before gaining access to the site ? to follow the five days intensive introduction to civilian life," the UN agency said.

To establish the site, UNDP said, it employed demobilised ex-combatants from the existing transit sites.

The frequency with which the combatants are coming to the site in Bunia is encouraging, UNDP reported.

"They arrive on a daily basis and since the beginning of activities on the 4th of February, not one day has been without new arrivals," Peter Situma, the UNDP site coordinator in Bunia, said.

The site had received some 60 combatants by mid-February, of whom 40 had finalised their stay, opting for community reinsertion. They received a starter kit and a $50 transport allocation to ease the introduction into civilian life, UNDP said.

The agency said it was managing a portfolio of some 100 community projects for an amount exceeding $2.5 million, aimed at absorbing the ex-combatants once they leave the transit sites.

UNDP said the UN Mission in the DRC, or MONUC, is "monitoring security around the sites" in Ituri, while UNDP is in charge of the civilian-humanitarian component inside the tent camps.

The government, through the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration, has the overall authority on the sites, while the UN Children's Fund is in charge of receiving the many children amongst the arrivals.


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