Humanitarian officials will look to the Chad government to protect civilians and secure aid operations after the UN Security Council decided on 25 May to withdraw some 3,000 UN peacekeepers from the country's volatile east.
"The Chadian government has said quite clearly both publicly and privately that they take on the responsibility for our [humanitarian workers'] security," and that of other civilians, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told IRIN from the capital, N'djamena, at the end of a four-day visit to Chad.
In January the government said it wanted the UN Mission to the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) to leave, and after several rounds of talks the UN Security Council (UNSC) revised MINURCAT’s mandate and voted to end the mission on 31 December 2010.
The government will "assume full responsibility for the security and the protection of the civilian population in eastern Chad, including refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and host communities, with a particular focus on women and children, United Nations and humanitarian personnel and assets", according to the UNSC resolution.
Aid workers watching and waiting
Part of the MINURCAT mandate has been to train the Détachement integré de sécurité (DIS) of the Chadian security forces. Aid activities in Chad "continue to be reduced in some areas by banditry", with towns in eastern Chad along the Sudanese border hardest hit, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted in its March-April bulletin.
The level of insecurity varies across eastern Chad, where aid workers and other civilians have long been subject to armed car-jackings, kidnappings and robbery by armed groups. Clashes between the army and Chadian rebels are also common in the region, which shelters some 400,000 Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadians.
Holmes said humanitarian agencies would discuss security commitments with the government. "There is no such thing as 100-percent security; there was not 100-percent security with MINURCAT. What we are dealing with here primarily is banditry and we must ... ensure that humanitarian workers and civilians are protected as much as possible."
Pauline Ballaman, director of Oxfam-Great Britain in Chad, told IRIN: "We have no position on whether ... MINURCAT or the government ... [provides security]. We're very encouraged by the position of the Chadian government and their commitment to address concerns about security ... [The UN resolution] is very specific about protection of civilians, about the free movement of humanitarians in order to be able to access beneficiaries."
Photo: Madjiasra Nako/IRIN
|Chadian soldiers in the town of Adré near the border with Sudan (file photo)|
In the town of Iriba, eastern Chad, Daniel Pugh, interim programme coordinator of CARE, told IRIN: “We've got to have confidence in what the government of Chad has told us, but time will tell. If the DIS can maintain the discipline and services that have been provided [with MINURCAT present], we will be happy. If the situation starts to degrade, who knows what could happen?"
MINURCAT is to continue its support to the organization and training of the DIS, according to the latest UNSC resolution. The government is to submit by end of July a plan for sustaining DIS after the UN mission’s exit.
Chad's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moussa Faki Mahamat, told reporters on 26 May: "The change-over will be assured by the UN-trained Chadian security forces to watch over refugee camps" after the departure of MINURCAT.
"We will fully cooperate with the UN, both for protecting refugees and for facilitating the return of those who wish to return when conditions permit. We will also support the return of displaced Chadians."