Secretary-General lowers number of proposed UN Chad force by 1,000

12 December 2008

A highly mobile peacekeeping force of at least 4,900, about 1,000 less than previously proposed, backed by 18 helicopters, will be needed to replace European troops next year in strife-torn areas of Chad and Central African Republic (CAR), where hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people are seeking shelter, according to a United Nations report released today.

A highly mobile peacekeeping force of at least 4,900, about 1,000 less than previously proposed, backed by 18 helicopters, will be needed to replace European troops next year in strife-torn areas of Chad and Central African Republic (CAR), where hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people are seeking shelter, according to a United Nations report released today.

“Eastern Chad continues to face an acute humanitarian challenge,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his latest report on the nascent UN Mission in CAR and Chad (MINURCAT).

“Over 290,000 Sudanese refugees, more than 180,000 internally displaced persons and a further 700,000 individuals among the host communities are in need of food, water and health care. At present, an estimated 500,000 persons are receiving assistance,” he adds of the region that has suffered from a spill-over from the war in Sudan’s Darfur region, rebel activity and banditry.

In his last report in September, Mr. Ban had proposed that the Council consider sending 6,000 UN troops to replace the 3,300-strong European Union force (EUFOR) when its mandate expires on 15 March. However, he now says that refinements to the plan would provide for some 4,900 troops covering a larger operational area and additional responsibilities than EUFOR.

In addition to air transports for troop-carrying, military engineering and communications resources would be required. Unlike EUFOR, it is anticipated that the UN force would continue over the next year and beyond, thus requiring enduring logistical support, in particular accommodation, sanitation and water.

Despite the complex causes of insecurity in the area, Mr. Ban cites attacks by heavily armed bandits as posing the most immediate and constant threat to the civilian population and humanitarian operations on a day-to-day basis.

“The threat is criminal in nature,” he writes, noting that bandit attacks on humanitarian workers continued to seriously undermine their capacity to reach people in need. “It manifests itself, predominately, through the use of military firepower, including heavy weapons. Countering this threat requires more than policing and calls for military deterrence. In cases where this does not succeed, military intervention is required.”

The extreme challenges posed by geography, climate and the fluid security situation demand a highly mobile and responsive force that projects deterrence through visibility and presence both on land and in the air, entailing 24 security patrols daily, supported by a battalion-size mobile reserve force able to provide a surge capacity in response to an emerging threat, he adds.

“Reports of ongoing recruitment of child soldiers and the existence of arms and armed men in refugee camps and internally displaced person sites in the region are particularly disturbing,” he says.

For CAR, he lays out three options: a small military liaison team of some 15 officers based in Chad that will liaise with local authorities and key actors in the Birao airfield area; a 500-strong detachment to protect one consolidated site, project limited longer range patrols, maintain a quick reaction force and undertake airfield maintenance; and 1,000 troops for deterrent and reconnaissance patrols.

In light of the technical assessment of prevailing risks, reinforced by EUFOR’s current tasks, he recommends the first option, but if a sustained presence is required or the threat changes the second option is seen as providing the best balance of operational presence, situational awareness and resource allocation.

To date 16 countries have indicated a willingness to positively consider contributing to MINURCAT and one indicated the possibility of contributing to the helicopter requirement. A number of other potential contributors have indicated that, while they could provide troops, specific commitments would depend on prior confirmation that the key enablers have been secured.

Presenting the report in an open meeting of the Security Council, the UN envoy for CAR and Chad, Victor Angelo, said that in order to ensure the smoothest possible transition, commitments from EUFOR contributors to “re-hat” even for a transitional period need to be confirmed in the coming days.

“Beyond the ‘re-hatting’ of troops already on the ground, MINURCAT will require strong support from Member States with regard to force generation, including equipment and enablers. Given the fluid security situation, challenging geography and climate, the UN force must be highly mobile,” he added.

 

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