afrol News, 25 March - Western nations, employing the best equipped armies in the world, are increasingly dropping their support for UN peacekeeping missions in Africa, rather focusing their efforts on Afghanistan. Even the Darfur and Congo crises are neglected.
Chad and the Central African Republic are strongly affected by the war in the neighbouring Darfur provinces of Sudan. Not only have large numbers of Darfuri refugees streamed into their lands, but the conflict has also spilled over their borders, with armed groups and bandits creating a humanitarian crisis over vast areas.
To address this crisis, the UN peacekeeping mission MINURCAT was established in 2007. Western countries, outraged by the war in Darfur and its spill-over to the two neighbour countries, were the first to demand a peacekeeping mission. A UN Security Council resolution decided to send up to 5,200 troops to Chad and the Central African Republic, together with sufficient military and civilian equipment.
At first, the European Union (EU) took a lead and headed the MINURCAT mission. Still, other countries sent most low-rank troops. And the 5,200 troops target was never met. Last year, the EU pulled out of Chad, leaving only a few Western officers and trainers in the country.
Now, another blow to MINURCAT could see the withdrawal of all Western troops from Darfur's vicinity. The Norwegian government has decided to dismantle its key military hospital in Chad after just one year of operations. The hospital serves UN peacekeepers, but uses its spare capacity to give high standard medical care to refugees and other civilians.
According to researchers from the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), the military hospital has been a cornerstone for a continued engagement of Western powers in Chad. "When the Norwegian hospital now is withdrawn from Chad, this will lead to the withdrawal of most of the Western troops still serving under UN command in Chad."
In addition, NUPI found, the short-lived Norwegian engagement in Chad had been immensely expensive for the UN, as it had to cover the large costs of transporting the military hospital to Abéché and now dismantling it. More than 30 Antonov airplanes had carried out the transport in 100 flights in an operation the UN had expected to last for far more than one year.
The Madrid-based Institute of Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action (IECAH) in a report this week finds that the MINURCAT peacekeeping mission has been let down by the UN member countries originally calling for it. The report finds that force deployment was still only around 68 percent of its target, less than half of the helicopters pledged to the mission had been delivered, field bases were not completed owing to logistical delays and the new troop contingents did not always meet minimum force requirements.
As a resul
A MINURCAT peacekeeper with Sudanese children from the Oure Cassoni refugee camp in Bahaď, Eastern Chad
t, IECAH found that MINURCAT therefore was "unable to carry out patrols during high-risk hours or in exposed locations, where most banditry occurs, and the porous border region is also left unpatrolled."
No wonder, then, that the government of Chad now has asked the UN to withdraw the entire peacekeeping mission. The remaining troops, mostly poorly trained and equipped, could easily be replaced by Chadian troops, which would have ampler mandates to provide security.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the eastern provinces still experience the aftermaths of a greater war that has cost millions of lives, government and popular disappointment in the MONUC peacekeepers is not less. Also DRC authorities have now asked for a gradual withdrawal of MONUC.
MONUC is the largest UN peacekeeping operation worldwide. Some 20,500 UN troops are stationed in the DRC, most being from Asian and African nations. MONUC has become increasingly poorly equipped and peacekeepers have been criticised for poor discipline and violating Congolese law.
According to NUPI - which today organised an international conference discussing "whether the current mainstream peace-building approach is conceptually and structurally flawed" - much of the problems surrounding peacekeeping missions in Africa today stem from the withdrawal of Western support and engagement.
"When UN peace operations mostly do not succeed properly, this is to a large degree due to their lack of essential equipment and staff," the NUPI researchers hold. And this equipment is mostly held by Western nations. Also, troops needed good skills to solve complicated peacekeeping tasks, and these skills were normally not held by the African and Asian troops now dominating UN forces, they claim.
According to the researchers, the war in Afghanistan was now the main focus of Western countries, including Norway, leading to an even lower priority of African peacekeeping missions.
Indeed, already last year, under the influence of the global finance crisis, many European countries strongly reduced their military activities abroad. While the engagement in Afghanistan was maintained, expensive overseas peacekeeping missions were strongly reduced. France, Poland, Germany, among others, withdrew troops from UN missions and have made no pledges to return as the economy is improving.
In Europe and North America, there is a growing sense of leaving UN peacekeeping missions not part of the "war against terror" to African and Asian nations. In addition, the African Union (AU) is left to maintain its own peacekeeping missions.
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