With Chadian rebel groups constantly changing, inter-communal fighting frequently breaking out, and tension with neighbouring Sudan increasing, some humanitarian officials in Chad fear the planned presence of simultaneous UN and European Union (EU) police and military forces will only add to the confusion.
"We have our questions about the deployment,” said Guinlhelm Molinie, head of Médecins Sans Frontières Luxembourg, which works in northeastern Chad. "We don't know if it's to protect humanitarians, refugees, the areas of return, the east of Chad. The official line varies."
"We are waiting to see how this force will act on the ground and whether it will do any good. We have some doubts about it, that's for sure."
The concerns about confusion are understandable, according to Lt-Col Jan Vall, deputy chief of the military liaison officers of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). Vall is charged with coordinating between the UN mission and the other forces on the ground.
"It will be very complicated for the [local] people to manage and for humanitarians - for everyone - to know the difference," he agreed.
"I will be there in uniform, without arms, with a UN logo. The EU will be there with arms, with the EU logo. The French [troops stationed in Chad for more than two decades and who support Chadian President Idriss Déby] will be there, with the same uniforms as the French working for the EU, but with a French logo, and with a different interest, etc., etc,” Vall told IRIN.
To try to clear up the ambiguity, MINURCAT has launched an information campaign to explain what its mandate is, and how it differs from the EU military force, EUFOR. Even though the European force has been only partially funded, and EUFOR officials are currently unable to talk publicly about their own mandate.
"[The combined UN-EU mandate] is a new beast," acting head of MINURCAT, Ousseni Compaoré, told IRIN on 8 January, in his first public interview. "In everyone's imagination, in everyone's comprehension, it does not fit the classic schemes. That's why it is a bit ambiguous. But in reality, on the ground, it's clear."
Two bodies, one mandate
The EUFOR and MINURCAT are two separate bodies, both mandated by the same Security Council resolution, marking the first time in the world that an EU military force and a UN mission are combined in a single UN mandate, Compaoré said.
MINURCAT is charged with training police and reinforcing judicial infrastructure, such as prisons and courts, so that local police are able to deal with "daily life".
It will deploy inside camps for refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan and sites for displaced Chadians in the east, and offer police escorts for aid agencies working in the region. It will complement the work of Chadian police and troops that have largely failed to prevent the camps from sometimes being militarised by rebels from Sudan, or to keep aid workers safe.
Aid agencies plagued by insecurity
Aid agencies in Chad have been plagued by insecurity, including frequent hijackings, shootings and kidnappings of national and international staff. In December 2007 alone six attacks on UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were recorded.
EUFOR is expected to provide general security for civilians whilst MINURCAT will provide security in the eastern zone outside the refugee and displaced people’s camps.
Photo: Nicholas Reader/IRIN
|Chadian villagers fleeing militia attacks in June 2006|
EUFOR is authorised to use military force. Part of its mandate, for example, is to prevent incursions into the area, Compaoré said.
According to the UN Security Council resolution which created the dual-mission system, EUFOR and the UN mission are broadly meant to stabilise the volatile region so that the over 175,000 Chadians who have fled from their homes over the last three years can return home.
Some Chadian rebel groups have threatened to attack any force they do not see as neutral, and have said they will target the French forces that will make up over half of the EUFOR.
MINURCAT’s Compaoré dismissed fears raised privately by some humanitarian workers that they will be more at risk because they might be associated with the French military if they are protected by EUFOR.
"Do you think we will deploy a force that will put humanitarians in more danger?” he asked. “The point of the resolution is to add protection."
Compaoré said any NGO that does not want to benefit from the police escorts on offer will not be forced to do so.
Over 100 MINURCAT personnel are already on the ground and police training has begun in the Chadian capital, N'djamena. But MINURCAT's deployment to the troubled east is dependent on that of EUFOR, which is to provide the security conditions under which MINURCAT can operate.
|...Do you think we will deploy a force that will put humanitarians in more danger? The point of the resolution is to add protection...|
EUFOR's deployment has been delayed several times since the first expected deployment date in November 2007 due to lack of equipment and money. In mid-December, the 23-member advance EUFOR team in Chad was still based in a hotel and dependent on French forces for logistics.
On 10 January, France, which has been pushing hardest for the EUFOR and MINURCAT deployments, upped its contribution to the EUFOR mission. It offered to provide 2,000 of the 3,500 troops required, roughly 10 helicopters and 500 extra men for logistical support, according to the Reuters news agency.
Further contributions are expected from Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden, according to news reports.
Discussions are scheduled to take place in Brussels on 11 January to finalise contributions by other EU member states and for European government and military officials to give their final consent for the mission.
Humanitarian and military officials in Chad said they hope to have a decision on deployment by the end of January.