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The influx of ex-combatants joining the Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) program has significantly exceeded initial projections, according to the National Rehabilitation Commission.

Early estimates anticipated approximately 250,000 ex-combatants to be registered at a cost of up to half a billion dollars. However, updated figures reveal 371,971 registered ex-combatants, ballooning costs to nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars.

At least 2,600 members of the Oromo Liberation Army and former rebel groups await the programs launch, now expanded beyond original plans. “Though around 250,000 ex-combatants were expected to join, regional states pushed for increased registration,” said Commissioner Teshome Toga (Amb.) at a press briefing.

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The DDR process will unfold across eight regions, with large ex-combatant populations in Tigray, Amhara and Oromia. Per the Council of Ministers decision, the Commission has a two-year mandate. However, Teshome noted “the timeline could extend given the expanded participant numbers.”

The full list of ex-combatants for demobilization includes Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Ethiopia’s southwest and southern regions.

To ensure successful DDR implementation and ex-combatant reintegration for lasting peace, reconciliation and social cohesion, experiences were drawn from countries like Sudan, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Colombia and past Ethiopian efforts.

Though demobilization is voluntary, Teshome warned “securing adequate funding will be difficult given the unexpectedly high participation.” Initial documents estimated a two-year budget of 29.7 billion birr (USD 554.9 million). But with more ex-combatants, costs now exceed USD one billion.

To finish demobilization efforts before 2023 concludes, the Commission aims to demobilize 75,000 ex-combatants within the next three months – 50,000 from Tigray and 25,000 from other areas.

Ethiopia has overseen two previous demobilization programs – from 1991-1995 and 2000-2005. The first began in 1991, lasting until 1997. After taking power, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) started an inclusive transition.

A commission was formed to conduct demobilization. But when the OLF withdrew from government in 1992 and rearmed, the process temporarily collapsed. After defeating the OLF, the government demobilized over 500,000 troops of the national army under the military regime and OLF fighters with the UN’s help at a cost of USD 196 million.

Similarly, from 2000-2005, Ethiopia demobilized 148,000 troops from the Eritrea conflict. Ethiopia contributed USD 3.1 million, while World Bank’s IDA credit covered over USD 170 million of the USD174 million total cost.

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