- Chadian President Idriss Déby today assured that his government would take responsibility to protect civilians, including humanitarian organisations, as the UN prepares to end its peacekeeping mission there by the end of the year.
In a meeting with the UN's humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes in N'Djamena one day after the UN Security Council voted to end the UN mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) in line with his request, President Déby emphasised the need for support from the international community as Chad assumes this responsibility.
During a four-day visit, Mr Holmes visited a region of eastern Chad where tens of thousands of people have been displaced by inter-communal fighting and a spill-over of the conflict from the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan, and another in western Chad where he saw the impact of food insecurity and malnutrition first hand.
Today Mr Holmes and President Déby stressed that more neededs to be done in the west to put into place a better response despite initial efforts by the Chadian government and the humanitarian community.
The UN Security Council yesterday ordered that the military component of MINURCAT be reduced from its current 3,300 troops to 2,200 military personnel – 1,900 in Chad and 300 in the Central African Republic – by 15 July. Withdrawal of the remaining troops would begin on 15 October, and all military and civilian personnel were to be withdrawn by 31 December.
The mission was set up over two years ago amid increasing unrest in eastern Chad, which hosts at least 250,000 refugees from Darfur and 180,000 internally displaced persons driven from their homes by interal unrest.
But with new agreements on border security between Chad and Sudan, and with the Chadian government stating that MINURCAT was not strong enough to provide complete security, the government said in February it felt it was better for Chadian forces to take over.
Human rights organisations however have expressed great concern over this decision, claiming it would put the fate of thousands of refugees at risk. Refugees and internally displaced they rather fear Chadian troops than trust them for protection.
Earlier this month, even Mr Holmes said he was "extremely worried" about the potential impact of a withdrawal on the civilians that the UN has been trying to help in eastern Chad but added, "we will have to deal with the situation as we find it."
Today Mr Holmes and President Déby agreed that people cannot return to their homes unless the situation is secure, with the Chadian President highlighting the need to de-mine areas of potential return. They also agreed on the need to tackle structural problems such as basic services, including the provision of potable water, and to ensure an appropriate return package for potential returnees.
Human rights organisations nevertheless remain sceptical, calling the UN to reconsider its withdrawal.
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