MOGADISHU (HAN) May 6.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. The African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) said Thursday 39 former Al-Shabaab combatants have completed rigorous rehabilitation programme and are ready for reintegration.

A statement from AMISOM said the ex-combatants, 20 males and 19 females, received vocational training and psychological counselling at the Rehabilitation Center in Baidoa.

Many of the female graduates expressed optimism that they were ready to return to the community and to make a positive contribution to the development of the country.

“I came to Baidoa fearing for my life. A friend of mine informed me about this center. I realized that this was the only place I will be safe. I have learned a lot,” said Nina.

“There is real difference in my life when I compare the time before I came to this center and now. I was welcomed, given shelter, food and above all training and counseling,” the former combatant added.

The new disarmament, demobilization and reintegration center for former Al Shabaab militants is used to disengage the militants while also serves as a platform from where they can be reintegrated back into the communities.

Another ex-militant, Batula, urged donors to continue funding the project to enable more ex-combatants to benefit from the facility.

“We want more priority to be given to women. There is a functioning center for men. We want one like that for women. Women are the backbone of the community,” she said.

This is the second graduation ceremony for ex-combatants since the male center was established in Baidoa. The center is considered one of the most successful humanitarian projects in the country.

UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Chief Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Section Officer, Patrick Loots, congratulated the ex-combatants for successfully completing the rehabilitation programme, and urged communities to reintegrate them into society.

“This is an important day; we celebrate the achievement of these young people. I congratulate you all for the successful completion of this program. The graduands are ready to go back to their community and help themselves and their people,” said Loots.

UNSOM has been at the forefront in rehabilitating ex-combatants and helping in the establishment of centers in other towns.

Somalia Interim South West Administration Minister of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, Hassan Hussein hailed the program as a step in the right direction, but said more work needs to be done to win over more youths recruited by Al-Shabaab and reintegrate them into society.

“We were able to persuade these young people to embrace peace, not to kill each other or kill innocent people. There is life beyond Al-Shabaab; they can do business and be part of a productive community,” Hussein added.

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