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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

Army Integration: Some International Experiences for Nepal

YOG UPADHYAY & GAYATRI GYAWALI discuss army integration experiences elsewhere and offer some options for Nepal.

Civil wars are far less likely to end in peace agreement. A study of 140 civil wars between 1945 and 1999 by Katherine Glassmyer and Nicholas Sambani of Yale University shows that only 18 percent of civil wars have ended with a settlement. We in Nepal, in our effort to resolve the war via an agreement, are part of that small margin.

The study by Katherine and Nicholas also found that more than a third of civil wars settled through peace agreements have restarted within a few years. They attribute such phenomenon to time inconsistency in the peace agreement. Possibly, there are two major reasons for this. The first, once the rebels demobilize, they lose bargaining power and the government can renege on its promises. This makes rebels reluctant to stop fighting and they can be quick in remobilizing for a fight. The second reason could be that the rebels, having been involved in civil war for so long, may lack qualification and experience to acquire new vocations or professions. Typically, the state would be economically weak due to prolonged war in the past and it wouldn’t really be able to support the rebels economically.

As a solution to these, many experts have proposed self-enforcing agreement where each party retains self-defending capability to discourage unilateral defection from the past peace agreement. One way to structure such an agreement is to integrate the rebel army into the (new) national army which will reduce the rebel insecurity vis-à-vis of government. The most recent example of this can be found in Democratic Republic of Congo where some groups agreed to integrate their rebel army into the national army while others (actually the rebels themselves) did not accept the idea of integration since they were not convinced that the result of the election would be in their favour. We put forth this example here to highlight the fact that they are the rebels who should have problem with integration, not the state.

There may be an issue on this that the rebels in our context have already gotten some sort of majority in the election and are leading the government. But it is also noteworthy that the matter of army integration is believed to have been mentioned in the peace accord (see Clause # 4.4; here’s the Nepali version) even before the election when the rebels might not have been as much sure of the success which they have achieved now.

Let us assume that the army integration was not mentioned in the peace accord as claimed by some of the politicians of Nepal but now maintaining the peace is the most important issue. As mentioned above, most of the civil wars are restarted due to the weakness of managing the rebel army. A report on the peace process of Democratic republic of Congo published by the New York-based independent watchdog Human Right Watch has mentioned that the government failure to integrate troops of former “belligerent” groups into the national army and to properly train and pay its soldiers underlay some military abuses such as those that occurred in December 2004 in North Kivu where government soldiers and combatants refusing integration fought and killed at least one hundred civilians, many of them targeted on an ethnic basis. Similar incidents were repeated elsewhere in 2005. Another research conducted by Professor Roger Kibasomba of the Institute for Security Studies also concludes that the lack of military integration in Democratic Republic of Congo is the single most destabilising factor that affects several other items on the agenda of transition. It also concludes that if integration and restructuring defence and security forces is achieved, it will contribute greatly in the post-transition stability of the country. The conflicts of Chad, Angola, Mozambique and even South Africa point out that the peace process either failed or became really messy in those countries mainly due to problems with integration of the combatants in the society. (See Elusive Peace, edited by William Zartman for more details)

This establishes the importance of the rebel army integration for lasting peace in any post-war country. But now the question is how the integration can be achieved. On the basis of many studies conducted by different individuals and organisations, the rebel integration can be phased in the following five different phases.

1. Freedom of Voluntary choice
The process of integration of combatants is also the recognition of their demand for which they fought the war for many years. It is also noteworthy that a peace process doesn’t mean that the rebels are 100 percent right in their demands but just a recognition that their points have some merit. So the first stage of the integration is giving the combatants a freedom of choice. Giving freedom of choice doesn’t mean that the government tells the combatants that they are free to choose the profession they want, but it also includes creation of various opportunities that the combatants might be interested to join. This is possible through the process of economic development and the government should be able to get the private business sector involved in this process.

2. Repatriation of foreign armed group
When a civil war breaks in any country, foreign armed group from a neighbouring country or even from elsewhere might come to take advantage of the poor law and order situation. So it is important to identify such groups and repatriate them to the country of their origin. Some difficulties might arise when some members of such groups are married with local people and have children. This will lead mainly to a political decision which needs joint effort of the rebel group as well as of local community.

3. Setting new qualification for integration
This is the most important task of MI (Military Integration) for integration of rebel army in defence mechanism which includes national army for border security, internal security mechanism such as police force and in some cases other security mechanisms such as community police and industrial security forces. As the MI agreement creates a new situation, it becomes imperative to set a new qualification and standard on the new national defence mechanism. While setting the standard the parties also need to be serious about the existing state security mechanism. This is really a hard task but could be achieved easily if there is a good coordination between the parties and existing state security mechanism. In many of the successful Military Integration agreements, combatants are integrated into national border security mechanism (National Army), Territorial Army, crime defence mechanism (police force) and other defence mechanism such as community watch and industrial security force depending upon the qualification and experience of the combatants. Here it is also noteworthy that any integrated personnel needs formal training for the specific role.

4. Socio-Economic Integration
This is also called Civil Re-Integration (CR) where a combatant who wants to return to public life voluntarily and the combatant who is disqualified to be integrated into the defence mechanism return to the society. The experience of Mozambique is very unique in this regards as most of the combatants preferred to participate in Civilian re-integration rather than to be integrated into national army. The Mozambique Civilian reintegration had two components: the first component provided demobilized combatants with information about job training and reintegration services, and the second component aimed to reintegrate former combatants into civilian life by giving a total of two years of cash payments and a stock of agricultural supplies. In Mali also only less than 2, 000 combatants were integrated in the army as more than 9,000 combatants preferred civilian reintegration as they were offered cash payment and either small monthly payment or enrolment into UNDP credit program for 3 years. Similar was the case of Angola where combatants who were formerly integrated into the army were taken out and paid 5 months salary plus integration allowance and reintegration kit for household and agriculture. This also happened in Namibia where more than 21,000 combatants were reintegrated into the society by receiving small monthly payment for some time even after the peace process.

5. Training newly integrated defence personnel
Due to the new standards and qualification agreed upon during an integration process, the existing army and the newly integrated defence personnel both need some amounts of training. The training needs to be more demanding for newly integrated personals as they were previously working in guerrilla-type setting and they need to know more about law and order, new policies and procedures and most importantly human rights standard and their specific rights and duties. In many cases, maintaining law and order becomes a major problem where adequate training is not given to the integrated combatants. The best example of this can be seen in Democratic Republic of Congo where the integrated army personnel were involved in looting civilian property and many other crimes.

Integration of combatant army into national defence system is seen as a key to providing security guarantee in many peace processes. Most of the international experiences where military integration agreement is successfully negotiated shows that they have adopted both military and civilian integration programs. In some places, civilian integration program has attracted more combatants than the military integration due to the economic and other benefits associated with such integration program. Where the rebels are integrated into the national defence system, the integration starts from giving voluntary choice on opportunities, setting the standard and qualification of defence mechanism personnel and integrating them into various security mechanism including military, police, paramilitary and industrial security forces, according to their qualifications. Last but not the least, involuntary civilian reintegration program and adequate training program for the integrated defence personal should be designed for which assistance from international organisations and donor agencies remains vital.

Yog Upadhyay is a Researcher at Sheffield Institute for Biotechnological Law and Ethics (SIBLE), School of Law, University of Sheffield, UK. He has just completed his doctoral thesis from the School of Law, University of Sheffield and teaches International law. Gayatri Gyawali is an advocate qualified in Nepal. The authorss contributed this article to Nepal Monitor.

Elusive Peace: Negotiating an End to Civil Wars, I. William Zartman (ed), The Brooking Institute, Washington DC, 1995.

Democracy and Political change in Sub-Saharan Africa, John A. Wiseman. Routeledge, London 1995.

Post-War Defence Integration in Democratic Republic of Congo, Prof. Roger Kibasomba, Institute for Security Studies, South Africa, 2005.

“Rebel Military Integration and Civil War Termination,” Katherine Galssmyers and Nicholas Sambanis, Journal of Peace Research, 2008, 45: 365, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, Norway 2008.

“Country Summery of Democratic Republic of Congo,” Human Rights Watch, New York 2008.


Posted by Editor on November 9, 2008 3:07 PM