Chad seeks withdrawal of military component of UN mission

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17 February - The top United Nations peacekeeper is flying to Chad next week after the African country called for the withdrawal of the military component of the UN mission that was set up over two years ago after tensions increased along the border with Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy's trip was announced after Chadian Permanent Representative Ahmad Allam-mi told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York today that that the military component of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) had served its purpose.

He said Chad was not calling for an immediate withdrawal of the military component, but an “interim solution” and wished to work out a compromise between total withdrawal and merely extending the mission's mandate as it stood.

MINURCAT was set up in 2007 to ensure the security of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Darfur, other displaced persons and humanitarian workers. But with new agreements on border security with Sudan, and with MINURCAT not strong enough to provide complete security in eastern Chad, it was better for Chadian forces to take over and for the mandate to be adjusted before it expires and comes up for renewal in March, he said.

The Security Council today discussed the issue and were briefed on ongoing contacts between the Secretariat and Chadian authorities by UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes and

Mr. Le Roy on all aspects of the mandate, particularly the positive contributions in the humanitarian field.

The 15-member body “expressed their full support for MINURCAT and encouraged further consultations on the way forward,” Ambassador Gérard Araud of France, which holds the Council's rotating presidency for February, said in a press statement.

Accusations that the authorities want the mission out before legislative elections this year, thus removing potential witnesses to fraud, are a “totally baseless rumour,” Mr. Allam-mi said, pointing out that elections were not even included in MINURCAT's mandate. The polls would take place under the aegis of the European Union, and many international observers would be in the country to ensure they were free and transparent, he added.

The mission currently comprises some 2,800 uniformed personnel and 430 international civilian staff, 400 local civilians and 148 UN Volunteers. Its mandate calls for it to liaise with the national forces to create a more secure environment, combating in particular the problems of banditry and criminality; and to support efforts to relocate refugee camps which are close to the border.

In the humanitarian field, it is entrusted with promoting human rights, with particular attention to sexual and gender-based violence, recommending action to fight impunity, and assisting the Government in promoting the rule of law, including support for an independent judiciary and a strengthened legal system.