Restoring dignity. Current psychosocial interventions with ex-combatants in South Africa

TitleRestoring dignity. Current psychosocial interventions with ex-combatants in South Africa
Publication TypeBook
Subtitle / Series TitleA review, discussion and policy dialogue project
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsBandeira, M
Number of Pages86 pp.
PublisherCentre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Johannesburg
Accession Number1124

(Excerpt from the Executive Summary:)
Countries that have been through transition find themselves faced with the task of (re)building political, economic and social stability. One of the main areas of concern for countries that have experienced some form of conflict on the path towards democracy (like South Africa) is the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants. DDR programmes have been developed and implemented across the continent. According to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone (Harsch, 2005), long-term stability depends on the existence of a comprehensive DDR programme. In reality, however, these programmes tend to fall short of being comprehensive.
Most DDR programmes tend to be short-term and technical without much focus on the longer-term psychosocial challenges faced by ex-combatants. The recognition of the importance of dealing with these issues has mostly been taken up by Non- Governmental Organisations (NGO's), who are often faced with several challenges. Despite the obstacles a number of organisations in South Africa have engaged and continue to engage with the psychosocial needs of excombatants in an attempt to assist with reintegration. There has, however, been little information gathered on these interventions or an evaluation of the impact of these on the lives of the ex-combatants. In addition, little to no dialogue has taken place with "government" on the role it can and/or should continue to play in the psychosocial reintegration of ex-combatants. One of the main challenges facing all those involved in this sector is that excombatants do not exist in isolation. The South African reality is that there are a number of groups that are clearly disadvantaged, marginalised and as a result, in need of special attention. This makes it increasingly difficult for both ex-combatants and organisations to justify that resources be allocated specifically to them. The researcher departs from the principle that there is enough evidence to indicate that South African ex-combatants are in fact a group that should receive special attention.
The organisations interviewed for this research work mostly with excombatants that belonged to the liberation forces. As a result, this report does not look at the psychosocial difficulties of ex-combatants of the South African Defence Force (SADF). This group, however, is one that requires more attention and research into their current situation.
The project aims to empower ex-combatants to engage in policy dialogue with key stakeholders on addressing their psychosocial needs. This will be achieved through facilitating their engagement in evaluating and identifying gaps in the psychosocial services available to them.
The researcher used qualitative methods of data collection and analysis for the study. This decision was based on the fact that this project sought to gain more in-depth understanding of the topic. Instruments with both highly structured and semi-structured questions were used. This ensured some standardisation across the sample while allowing for openness to divergent themes. The study was divided into two parts; one focused on organisations providing assistance or working with ex-combatants and the other focused on the ex-combatants themselves. This approach allowed for cross-validation of experiences. It was important to get the perspectives of both groups in order to provide a clearer understanding.

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