Insecurity reigns in eastern Chad as the UN mission struggles to protect civilians

By rbaker

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N'DJAMENA, CHAD ? The protection mission in eastern Chad is unable to deal with spiraling insecurity, leaving half a million people vulnerable to attacks and abuse, warns international agency Oxfam in a report published today. One year on from the start of the mission, the police force is not yet operational and the European troops are struggling with growing lawlessness and banditry.

"Mission incomplete: why civilians remain at risk in eastern Chad" reviews the performance of the UN protection mission one year after the UN Security Council authorized the mission. The report finds a mission marked by serious delays in deployment, bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of coordination. As a result, almost half a million vulnerable people who fled their homes due to the conflicts in Darfur and Chad are not adequately protected and are exposed daily to attacks, thefts, rape and forced recruitment.

The mission, mandated by the UN Security Council in September 2007, is made up of two components: UN police (referred to by its French acronym MINURCAT)  responsible for security inside refugee camps and sites for internally displaced people, and the European Union military force (EUFOR), responsible for general security. To date, only 320 Chadian police have been trained to provide security but have yet to be deployed. This law and order vacuum has resulted in increased attacks on aid workers and civilians as bandits can rob and kill with impunity.

"Having fled the violence in Darfur and Chad, people thought they had found sanctuary in the camps.  But eastern Chad is a volatile, lawless land and they are now marooned, living under constant threat. Every day, people face the theft of livestock, attacks, robberies and rape.  They are afraid to plant their fields or collect firewood. EUFOR troops are doing their job in attempting to keep a lid on the violence, but they cannot do it alone, and urgently need the back up of the mission's promised police" said Roland Van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam's Country Director in Chad.

The report finds that EUFOR, which is almost fully deployed, has made many feel safer by patrolling the main roads, destroying unexploded ordnances, and by positioning battalions around camps during rebel and government fighting.  But the EU troops are a military force, not a police force, and are thus less capable of dealing with the upsurge in banditry and criminality.

While the UN must do more to protect civilians now, the report recognizes that without a comprehensive political solution to the internal crisis in Chad, there will be no hope of long-term security for the civilians who are currently at risk.  Oxfam thus calls on the international community to start working for a negotiated settlement of the crisis in Chad.

"Chad deserves more than band-aids. If the root causes of this protracted crisis are not addressed, the mission will have spent resources and risked the lives of its personnel in vain. The United Nations Security Council, must task the UN Special Representative in Chad with developing an inclusive peace process, as only with this political mandate will the mission be truly capable of protecting the people and securing Chad's future," said Van Hauwermeiren.

With the mission's mandate coming up for renewal on the 24 September, Oxfam is urging the United Nations Security Council to ensure that the mission is capable of dealing with current security crisis in eastern Chad and giving people the protection they urgently need by:

  • Immediately deploying MINURCAT and speeding up training of Chadian police.
  • Revising and strengthening MINURCAT's original mandate so as to deploy UN police squads to camps to plug the security gap in the short-term.
  • Providing the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Chad with the mandate to support efforts towards a comprehensive, inclusive peace process that includes all actors ? the government of Chad, unarmed political opposition groups, armed groups, civil society and traditional leaders.

 

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