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Chad: Ban Ki-moon proposes peacekeeping force with some 11,000 personnel

Chad: Ban Ki-moon proposes peacekeeping force with some 11,000 personnel

With eastern Chad facing major turmoil sparked by clashes between Government and Sudan-based rebel forces, forays by Sudan-based militia and ethnic violence, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is proposing to send an 11,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission to protect civilians and deter cross-border attacks.

“Eastern Chad is facing a multifaceted security and humanitarian crisis, which includes ongoing clashes between Government forces and Sudan-based Chadian rebels, cross-border attacks on civilians by Sudan-based militia, the presence of Sudanese rebels on Chadian territory, ethnic violence, internal displacement, inter-communal tensions and banditry,” Mr. Ban says in his latest report to the Security Council.

“The result is an environment of uncertainty, vulnerability and victimization of the local communities and the 232,000 Sudanese refugees in the region, and, above all, of the 120,000 internally displaced persons in eastern Chad.”

At the same time he proposes “a modest deployment “of UN military and police personnel in north-eastern Central African Republic (CAR), which is also suffering in part from a spill-over of the war in Sudan’s Darfur region but where the situation is less acute after a Government-rebel accord to negotiate an end to their conflict, although there is continued risk that violence may erupt again.

Mr. Ban’s report stems from a technical assessment mission which visited both countries at the Council’s request and found that armed rebel movements seeking to overthrow the Government continue to destabilize eastern Chad.

But in discussions with representatives of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees it was also made clear that militia groups based in the Sudan and characterized as Janjaweed, who cross into Chad to attack civilians, were seen as the foremost threat to their safety. Chadian civilians seemed to be the most frequent target of those attacks, which resulted in the partial destruction of an IDP site.

Mr. Ban mentions two options, preferring the second. The first with a total force of some 6,000 would depend more heavily on aviation for flexibility. The second would comprise a military force of some 10,900, relying more on infantry troops being in place to meet operational requirements.

Both would also include some 260 international UN police overseeing approximately 800 Chadian gendarmes and police seconded to the UN. The mission would have a multidimensional mandate ranging from ensuring the security of civilians, maintaining law and order in refugee camps and towns housing humanitarian field offices, and border deployment, to facilitating free movement of aid, improving relations between Chad, Sudan and CAR, and supporting dialogue between both governments and unarmed opposition groups.

Its purview would also include an internal advisory capacity on justice and prisons, human rights investigations, reporting and training activities, and “gender mainstreaming strategies” paying particular attention to women and girls directly affected by conflict, documenting violence against women, and playing an advocacy role with local and national authorities to protect civilians and most vulnerable groups.

In collaboration with UN agencies and civil society organizations, the mission would support national authorities in both countries such as the armed forces, the gendarmes and police to implement policies and programmes to advance gender equality. A gender action plan would focus on prevention and responses to the high rate of reported incidents of sexual and gender-based violence against refugees, IDPs and civilians.

Mr. Ban does not underestimate “the distinct and serious risks” entailed by an open-ended UN deployment in the challenging environment, chiefly the possibility that armed groups may view a UN force as interfering with their military agenda and decide to attack.

“It would be imperative therefore to obtain assurances from Chadian rebel groups that they would recognize the impartial character of a United Nations presence,” he writes. There is also the possibility that a United Nations force, while carrying out its protection functions in such a fluid environment, could find itself caught in the cross-fire between belligerents.”

Therefore the force should be clearly focused on two principal objectives: protecting civilians at risk, particularly IDPs and refugees, and deterring cross-border attacks through its presence. It could also contribute to efforts to settle the crisis in Darfur, where fighting between the Sudanese Government, allied militias and rebels has displaced more than 2 million people, and help to developing a political climate conducive to reconciliation in eastern Chad.

“I would like to reiterate that responsibility for achieving a lasting solution to the crisis in Darfur, eastern Chad and north-eastern Central African Republic rests, first and foremost, with the leaders of these countries,” Mr. Ban concludes. “I call on their Governments to move forward rapidly and to muster the political will to establish peace and stability in their countries and in the region.”