After reintegration counselling and training women who are former ex-combatants or were associated with armed groups now operate successful restaurants in South Sudan.
Next time you are in Mapel, in Western Bahr El Gazal state in South Sudan, check out the busy restaurants located near the military barracks. One is operated by Mary Alueth Madu, now a successful business woman, who employs a staff of six. This is certainly a change since those days before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, when Mary spent 10 years cooking for the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army. Once the CPA came into effect, the mother of five was among the 2,499 ex-combatants and women associated with armed forces and groups (WAAF) in the Western Bahr El Gazal state who registered and received training and reintegration assistance through the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program in South Sudan. In May 2011, Mary was among 24 women who received training in managing a small business through a project supported by the DDR program and UNDP. She also received restaurant equipment and start-up capital of 350 South Sudan Pounds (SSP) from the project. Today, her business is very successful. She is making up to 1000 SSP per day in food sales and still able to make a profit of up to 500 SSP per day. My business has changed my life, said Mary. My difficult life before I received the DDR support was changed. I am able to send my children to school and support my family without any problem. She is planning to build a big house in Mapel and expand her business to open a big restaurant. My dream is coming true thanks to the DDR project and my God, she said. Marys case and those of the other ex-combatants and WAAF are being followed closely by UN Volunteer Prince Isaiah from Liberia. Prince is a Management Information Systems Officer with the DDR programs Crisis Prevention Recovery Unit in Wau, South Sudan, where he designed a database for monitoring and evaluating the reintegration of ex-combatants and WAAF. Among other things, the database follows up on how well ex-combatants are doing in their business and agriculture endeavors. In his view, the restaurant training project has been a success. The project helped Mary and the other women who took the training to form a group of restaurants located close to the military barracks and the site of a new transitional facility camp that is expected, said Prince. Due to the restaurants proximity to the barracks, there has been a good market for the groups fare. As a result, the women have successfully established their businesses and are now making significant profits from their food sales. Mary, the groups chairperson, said the group now looks forward to providing catering services for the ex-combatants who will occupy the transitional facilities during the coming the new DDR program.