Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chad News Bulletin: EU Force Pledges to Stay Out of Chad Conflict; Plight of Refugees in Cameroon

EU force pledges to stay out of Chad rebel conflict

AFP - Thursday, February 14

NDJAMENA (AFP) - - The head of an EU peacekeeping force deploying to protect Darfur refugees pledged Wednesday that troops would not become embroiled in the conflict between Chad's government and rebels.

The European Union resumed deployment Tuesday of the peacekeeping force to Chad and the Central African Republic, after suspending it at the start of the month when rebels stormed the capital Ndjamena.

"The framework of the operation has not changed, nor have the objectives," said French General Jean-Philippe Ganascia, local head of the European peacekeeping force which is expected to include 3,700 troops.

He added: "Our mandate is to protect civilians."

But their job may have been made more difficult by alleged support given to Chad's government by French troops deployed in the central African nation as part of a separate mission there.

The French defence ministry has said no French soldiers or special forces were involved in fighting between Chadian rebels and government forces, but rebels dispute the claim.

Rebel spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah has said that France had "needlessly put the lives of its own nationals in danger" by allowing its troops to support President Idriss Deby Itno.

Most of the troops in the EU force will be provided by France, and peacekeepers will be based in eastern areas in Chad close to Sudan's border, near where rebels have been known to operate. Chad has long claimed the rebels are backed by Sudan.

The EU deployment began in late January but was suspended from February 1 after an allied group of three rebel forces coming from the troubled east arrived at the gates of Chad's capital.

Chad's army drove the rebels hostile to Deby out of Ndjamena after a weekend of heavy fighting on the city streets on February 2 and 3, and the attackers have since withdrawn towards southeast Chad.

The EU mission has a United Nations mandate to protect refugees from western Sudan's strife-wracked Darfur region as well as people internally displaced by rebel insurgencies in Chad and the northern CAR.

"If we would have been deployed, we would not have moved" to intercept the rebels during this month's clashes, said Ganascia, specifying that the EU force does not have a mandate to do so.

Ireland, meanwhile, said its forces would begin deploying in Chad next week.

Fifty members of the elite the Army Ranger Wing will be the first Irish unit into African country from February 21, said the Irish Defence Forces.

"Following their arrival into Ndjamena the Rangers will undertake the 900 kilometre (560 mile) overland journey east across Chad's arid interior to Abeche and Goz Beida," it said in a statement.

"They will immediately set about patrolling the region, identifying suitable base camp areas and assessing the prevailing security situation in advance of the arrival of the main body of Irish troops," it added.

The main 400-strong Irish unit will begin to deploy in mid-March, said a ministry spokeswoman.

France already has more than 1,000 troops permanently stationed in Chad, a former French colony, as part of its Epervier (Sparrowhawk) force.

Military cooperation accords between Chad and France cover logistical, medical and intelligence support for Deby's regime, but not direct military intervention.

Ganascia said he "had no contact with Epervier, nor with the French ambassador" during the recent fighting.

But further confusion may have resulted from Deby's comments on February 6, three days after the rebels were chased from the capital.

Deby called for the "rapid deployment" of the EU force, known as EUFOR, adding that the deployment "would have helped" had it been achieved beforehand.

France's alleged involvement in the fighting has also led to criticism within the European Union.

Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said that "if one of the EUFOR member countries actively took part in the fighting... the EU should reconsider EUFOR's commitment."

The EU operation had originally been due to start last November, but was delayed several times due to problems of getting enough troops and hardware together.

UN Readies to Provide More Lasting Help for Chadian Refugees

UN News Service (New York)
Posted to the web 13 February 2008

United Nations aid officials in Cameroon are preparing plans to deliver protection and assistance for some months to as many as 20,000 Chadian refugees who fled their homeland last week because of deadly fighting between Government forces and armed opposition groups.

An estimated 30,000 refugees are currently in Kousséri, in north-eastern Cameroon, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) local representative Jacques Franquin said that after handling the group's immediate life-saving needs, the agency expects about two thirds will not return to Chad in the coming weeks.

"We expect such number to remain in Chad in the medium term," Mr. Franquin said. "We are now working with our donors to ensure funding so that we can provide the protection and assistance required."

This weekend UNHCR and its aid partners will start officially registering the new refugees and offering some of them transport to a camp near the town of Maltam, about 32 kilometres from Kousséri.

Silvia Luciani, the acting representative in Cameroon of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said vaccinations against measles and polio will start tomorrow for up to 44,000 children among the refugees and the local host communities.

UNICEF has also been providing 48,000 litres of drinking water to the refugees each day since Saturday, when the World Food Programme (WFP) began systematic distributions of food. The Chadians will also receive blankets, soaps, buckets and jerry cans.

Sophie de Caen, the UN Resident Coordinator for Cameroon, said that while the living and hygienic conditions for the refugees were harsh, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the area were getting the situation under control. A cargo plane chartered by UNHCR landed in Garoua, Cameroon, on Sunday, carrying another 45 tons of relief items.

Although people are still crossing back and forth over the bridge between Kousséri and the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the refugee inflow has almost stopped.

Meanwhile, UNHCR reported that some 6,000 to 7,000 Central Africans have fled their homeland for southern Chad since late January because of the increasing risk of bandit attacks in the Central African Republic (CAR).

UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said the agency is sending a team today to assess the recent arrivals, who are largely located in several villages near Gore, the main town in southern Chad.

Mostly women and children, the refugees are in poor condition, arriving with no possessions and relying on the generosity of locals. There are now an estimated 50,000 Central African refugees living in Chad.

Both Chad and the CAR have been plagued by violence, instability and impoverishment and last year the Security Council authorized the establishment of a multi-dimensional UN presence - including a peacekeeping mission known as MINURCAT - to try to remedy the situation.

Victor Angelo, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Chad and the CAR, said today that he would work to persuade armed groups in the region to lay down their weapons and join a political process.

No comments: