CHAD REASSURES UN ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS AFTER PEACEKEEPERS WITHDRAW
26 May - Chadian President Idriss Déby today reiterated assurances that his Government will take responsibility to protect civilians, including the humanitarian community, as the United Nations prepares to end its peacekeeping mission there by the end of the year.
In a meeting with Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes in N'Djamena a day after the Security Council voted to end the UN mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) in line with his request, Mr. Déby emphasized the need for support from the international community as the Government assumes this responsibility.
During a four-day visit, Mr. Holmes visited a region of eastern Chad where tens of thousands of people have been displaced by inter-communal fighting and a spill-over of the conflict from the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan, and another in western Chad where he saw the impact of food insecurity and malnutrition first hand.
Today Mr. Holmes and Mr. Déby stressed that more needs to be done in the west to put into place a better response despite initial efforts by the Government and the humanitarian community.
In a unanimously adopted resolution yesterday, the Council ordered that the military component of MINURCAT be reduced from its current 3,300 troops to 2,200 military personnel – 1,900 in Chad and 300 in the CAR – by 15 July. Withdrawal of the remaining troops will begin on 15 October, and all military and civilian personnel are to be withdrawn by 31 December.
The mission was set up over two years ago amid increasing unrest in eastern Chad, which hosts at least 250,000 refugees from Darfur and 180,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) driven from their homes by inter-communal unrest.
But with new agreements on border security between Chad and Sudan, and with the Chadian Government stating that MINURCAT was not strong enough to provide complete security, the Government said in February it felt it was better for Chadian forces to take over.
Earlier this month Mr. Holmes said he was “extremely worried” about the potential impact of a withdrawal on the civilians that the UN has been trying to help in eastern Chad but added “We will have to deal with the situation as we find it.”
Today Mr. Holmes and Mr. Déby agreed that people cannot return to their homes unless the situation is secure, with the President highlighting the need to de-mine areas of potential return. They also agreed on the need to tackle structural problems such as basic services, including the provision of potable water, and to ensure an appropriate return package for potential returnees.
Mr. Holmes later today left Chad for Sudan, his fifth official visit to Africa's largest country, to assess conditions in the south, which is scheduled to hold a referendum on independence early next year as part of a 2005 peace accord that ended 20 years of civil war with the northern-based national Government. He will also visit war-torn Darfur and confer with the Government in Khartoum, the capital. Accra / Ghana/ Africa / Modernghana.com