Concealing Former Identity to Be Accepted After the Demobilization Process in Colombia: A Real Reintegration in a Post Conflict Scenario?


  • Odile Cuénoud González
  • Alain Clémence


Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes underlie the issue of the adaptation of former combatants into civilian life, as well as their acceptance by the civilian population. In an ongoing conflict scenario like Colombia’s, some factors such as civilian hostility and discrimination can lead former combatants to opt for defensive strategies such as concealing their former identity or taking up arms again. Until 2016, 58’000 combatants tried to rebuild their lives in civil society under a process where concealing their former combatant identity was necessary for reintegration. This paper contributes with original data on concealing identities in DDR processes, from a field study conducted in 2014 in Colombia with former members of guerrillas’ group (FARC and ELN) and paramilitaries’ group (AUC) in four different regions in the country (N = 201). We study the factors that determine concealing the former combatant identity and its effects on reintegration. The voluntary demobilization and the pride of having belonged to an armed group decrease the frequency of concealing the former identity. Otherwise, a hostile civilian community’s reception increases the level of concealing. Contrary to literature on intragroup relations and on social reintegration and reconciliation, our results reveal that concealing one’s past seems to indirectly permit a better integration, with a higher identification with civilian life. Results are discussed with reference to social identity theory, reintegration, and reconciliation literature, regarding the limits of reintegration processes in an ongoing conflict scenario.