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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC-CHAD: France takes the lead on new UN-EU peacekeeping mission


Photo: David Hecht/IRIN
Children play near a site for displaced families at Goz Baida in eastern Chad
NEW YORK, 26 September 2007 (IRIN) - France will be the largest single troop contributor to a new joint UN-European Union “multi-dimensional” peacekeeping mission to Chad and Central African Republic authorised by the UN Security Council on 25 September.

The former colonial power of both countries already has a military base in Chad and some troops in Central African Republic (CAR). It is expected to contribute about half of the EU force of 3,000 to 4,000 troops to support the new UN Mission, MINURCAT.

Deployment is expected to start in November, preceding the arrival of the UN-African Union hybrid force expected in the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan early next year.  

Chadian President Idriss Deby, who was initially reluctant to allow a UN force into his country, agreed to a proposal France put forward in June for a joint UN-EU force.

However rebel groups in Chad have warned the international community that if the EU troops take sides in the country's civil war they will become a target.

French troops based in the Chadian capital N’djamena were perceived as having been instrumental in halting one rebel group's attempt to invade N'djamena in April 2006.

Some aid groups in eastern Chad have expressed concern about France’s dominance in the new peacekeeping force. “If the major component of the force is French it will not be seen as a neutral force in the country by a lot of other stakeholders,” Oxfam’s Roland Van Hauwermeiren told the BBC, after the Security Council’s adoption.

The resolution gives the EU troops the power to use force to protect civilians in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The EU soldiers are to provide security and assist in the flow of humanitarian aid.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres issued a statement after the resolution was adopted, saying, “This is most urgent given that the humanitarian situation in eastern Chad is very difficult and serious and [there is] fear of increasing violence, causing more people to flee, with the approaching end of the rainy season.” 

Since the start of armed conflict in Darfur in 2003, some 240,000 Sudanese men, women and children have fled to Chad, according to UN estimates. Fighting in Chad and CAR has displaced some 350,000 people within the two countries.

According to the two-tiered resolution which France drafted, the UN component will consist of 300 police, 50 military liaison officers and civilian officers mandated to select, train and advise local police.

After six months, the Secretary General will review the mission’s progress. After a year a UN peacekeeping force may take over from the EU.

The resolution was adopted hours before French President Nicolas Sarkozy chaired an African summit in coordination with the UN’s annual General Assembly.

“France welcomes the adoption of the resolution,” Sarkozy said at the summit. “The crisis in Darfur and its regional ramifications are a priority for France.”

as/dh/np


Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.