Philippines peace adviser oversees rebel reintegration

A seven-member independent decommissioning body with representatives from Turkey, Norway, Brunei, the Philippines and the MILF will oversee the process. (Shutterstock)
Updated 25 June 2019

Philippines peace adviser oversees rebel reintegration

  • Under the first stage, 30 percent of the MILF fighting force will be decommissioned this year

MANILA: The decommissioning of 12,000 separatist fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will start in September, a senior Philippines government adviser told Arab News on Monday.

Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said that members of the government panel implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro have begun talks with communities in the six MILF camps.

The agreement was signed by the government and the MILF in 2014, and includes ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao. 

“There are about 40,000 Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members due for decommissioning and this will be done in three stages,” Hermoso said.

A seven-member independent decommissioning body with representatives from Turkey, Norway, Brunei, the Philippines and the MILF will oversee the process.

 

Stages

Under the first stage, about 12,000 BIAF members, or 30 percent of the MILF fighting force, will be decommissioned this year.

Asked when decommissioning will start, Hermoso said that “they are looking at September, but no date has been set.”

The second stage will include the decommissioning of 35 percent of BIAF members after a Bangsamoro police force is established. 

Decommissioning of remaining MILF fighters will take place when the government and MILF panels have signed an exit document confirming that all their agreements have been implemented.

As chair of the joint peace and security committee, Hermoso is in charge of bringing fighters to processing centers and then returning them to their communities.

The 12,000 BIAF members have already  surrendered their high-powered firearms, he said.

Experts on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration will oversee decommissioning of combatants, while joint peace and security teams will secure the processing areas.

Decommissioned fighters will be profiled to help integration into their communities.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte earlier approved a wide-ranging government plan to aid former combatants, their families and their communities during the transition process.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said that the normalization process will address the “drivers and triggers” that breed conflict in Mindanao communities.

He said this would take place “by eliminating the conditions and vulnerabilities for potential conflict, changing the behavioral patterns and mindset of individuals and organizations, and pushing them to work to achieve harmony, interdependence, and the common good.”


Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 14 November 2019

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.