Insecurity reigns in eastern Chad as the EU-UN mission struggles to protect civilians

“Everyday people face the theft of livestock, attacks, robberies and rape.”
Roland Van Hauwermeiren
Oxfam Country Director, Chad
Published: 10 September 2008

Chad, 10 September 2008 – The protection mission in eastern Chad is unable to deal with spiraling insecurity leaving half a million people vulnerable to attacks and abuse warns international agency, Oxfam in a report published today. One year on from the start of the mission, the police force is not yet operational and the European troops are struggling with growing lawlessness and banditry.

Mission incomplete: why civilians remain at risk in eastern Chad” reviews the performance of the EU-UN protection mission one year on from its inception and finds a mission marked by serious delays in deployment, bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of coordination. As a result, almost half a million vulnerable people who fled their homes due to the conflict in Darfur and Chad are not adequately protected and are exposed daily to attacks, thefts, rape and forced recruitment.

The mission, mandated by the UN Security Council in September 2007, is made up of a UN police component, MINURCAT - in charge of security inside refugee camps and sites for internally displaced people - and the European Union military force (EUFOR), in charge of general security. To date, only 320 Chadian police have been trained to provide security and they have yet to be deployed. This law and order vacuum has resulted in attacks on aid workers and civilians mushrooming as bandits realise they can rob and kill without fear.

Violence every day

"Having fled the violence in Darfur and Chad people thought they had found sanctuary but eastern Chad is a volatile, lawless land and they are now marooned living in constant threat. Everyday people face the theft of livestock, attacks, robberies and rape.  They are afraid to plant their fields or collect firewood. EUFOR troops are doing their job in attempting to keep a lid on the violence, but they cannot do it alone, and urgently need the back up of the mission’s promised police” said Roland Van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam GB's Country Director in Chad.

The report which is based on interviews with the displaced population living in camps, regional experts and aid workers, finds that EUFOR, which is almost fully deployed, has made many feel safer by patroling the main roads, destroying unexploded ordnances, and by positioning battalions around camps during rebel and government fighting. But the EU troops are alone on the ground and as a military force, not a police force, are less capable of dealing with the upsurge in banditry and criminality.

Responsibility to protect civilians

“The European Union has a special responsibility to ensure that the response to Chad’s crisis actually works. They have deployed troops but so far the root causes of insecurity in Chad have not been tackled. Without the full deployment of MINURCAT and the political commitment to find a comprehensive solution to the crisis, violence will continue to plague civilians and the mission will have spent resources and risked the lives of its personnel in vain,” said Elise Ford, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Policy Advisor in Brussels.

With the mission’s mandate coming up for renewal on the 24 September, Oxfam is urging the EU to make clear recommendations to the United Nations Security Council to reform the mission to ensure that it is capable of dealing with the security crisis in eastern Chad.

These include:

  • Immediately deploying MINURCAT and speeding up training;
  • Revising and strengthening MINURCAT’s original mandate so as to deploy UN police squads to camps to plug the security gap in the short-term;
  • Extending MINURCAT’s mandate to the whole country, not just the east, to assist judicial and administrative capacity, as well as promote human rights and gender equity;
  • Begin planning now for a follow-on military mission now to ensure that civilians will not be left without protection when the EU force is due to leave on 15 March 2009.

“The EU must take greater responsibility for the success of the whole mission not just EUFOR. The EU has spent €10 million on the MINURCAT police force and must ensure that it is deployed and provides people with the protection they urgently need. As the EU’s largest ever military mission, Chad is an important test of the EU’s role in protecting civilians and resolving conflict,” said Ford.

Notes to Editors

1. The UN Security Council’s three-pronged mission in eastern Chad consists of:

  • MINURCAT, the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, comprising UN police trainers and civilian staff charged with helping to build up Chad’s justice system and monitor the human rights situation;
  • The establishment of a new 850-strong Chadian police and gendarme unit, the Detachement Integré de Securité (DIS) to be trained and monitored by the UN police to provide 24-hour security in the refugee and internally displaced camps;
  • EUFOR, the European Union military force of 3,700 soldiers, intended to provide the ‘wide-area security’ needed for the deployment of the first two elements of the mission and was also mandated to ‘contribute to protecting civilians in danger, particularly refugees and displaced persons.’

2.  Oxfam's is helping more than 160,000 people in eastern Chad with clean water, safe sanitation and public health promotion.