Reintegrating with Hostile Minds? An Examination of the Role of Social Psychology in Ex-Combatant Management in Rwanda and Burundi
How can ex-combatants, so normalised to violence, be successfully reintegrated into civilian life? Previous research on ex-combatant reintegration has focused on issues of economics, physical security, political involvement, and narrow community networking, leaving social issues underexplored. Indeed, no study has previously looked at the social psychological aspects of ex-combatant reintegration. In order to explore the presence of social psychological issues within ex-combatant management, a theoretical framework was developed in this thesis covering issues of intergroup division, authoritarianism, discrimination, and negative intergroup contact. Using programme documents and existing academic data, the framework was applied to two case studies of post-conflict ex-combatant management – in Rwanda and Burundi – analysing to what extent these social psychological issues have been addressed in ex-combatant reintegration. In each case study, the two main ex-combatant groups were analysed, and all major official reintegration initiatives were examined. The findings of the comparative analysis are disconcerting. Despite the presence of all social psychological issues from the framework in ex-combatant communities, the recognition of these issues within ex-combatant oriented programmes has been poor. In Burundi, the main reintegration programme has addressed social psychological issues in an inadvertent and fleeting manner, if addressed at all. The majority of the Rwandan programme has taken a similarly indifferent approach. However, a major point of difference is found in the ingando sub-programme in Rwanda which actively adopts social psychological principles for political motivations at the expense of ex-combatant reintegration, exacerbating negative intergroup issues. As such, the study finds a trend in these two contemporary ex-combatant management contexts in which social psychological issues are either not addressed, or misused to negatively impact on intergroup reconciliation. Consequently, the study highlights the importance of including a social psychological perspective in ex-combatant reintegration and peacebuilding initiatives in order to achieve sustainable peace.
Advisor: Brounéus, Karen
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Reintegration; Ex-Combatants; DDR; Social Psychology; Identity; Discrimination; RDRP; NPDRR; Rwanda; Burundi
Research Type: Thesis