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The UN and Chad: More of the Same

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The UN and Chad: More of the Same

Posted by Maggie Fick on January 27, 2009

The UN and Chad: More of the Same

On January 14, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1861, extending the mandate of the year-and-a-half old U.N. Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, or MINURCAT, until March 2010. Last December, while the Security Council discussed the details of the mandate, I held out hope that the final mandate might reflect at least the smallest of indications from the U.N. that it might attempt, through MINURCAT, to lay the groundwork for a broader international effort to deal with the grave internal political crisis and endemic security problems in Chad. I was wrong.

Last fall, my colleague Omer Ismail and I proposed how the UN could enable MINURCAT to better fulfill its mandate to protect civilians in eastern Chad while simultaneously beginning to address the root causes of recurrent warfare in Chad. EUFOR, the European Union military force MINURCAT will replace in mid-March, failed in its primary objective of protecting civilians. The Enough Project has argued that a redefined mandate could not only succeed where EUFOR failed, but could also begin to lay the groundwork for a broader international effort to deal with Chad’s political crisis.

Although the news out of Chad is seldom bright, it is particularly disappointing to note that the Security Council has made virtually no substantive changes to the mission’s previous mandate, aside from boosting the number of military personnel in the mission from 3,300 to 5,200. If you ignore the date changes and a few details regarding mission size, Resolution 1861 looks a lot like Resolution 1778 with the exception of one new clause about MINURCAT supporting local reconciliation efforts.

Although increasing MINURCAT’s capacity is not a bad idea, it is unlikely that this troop increase could have any tangible impact in terms of civilian protection in volatile, bandit-ridden Chad if the mission does not adopt much more robust military rules of engagement. How can U.N. peacekeepers protect civilians if their mandate does not allow them to reach rural areas where civilians have been left to fend for themselves against encroaching rebel movements and opportunistic bandits? Further, although MINURCAT does have a Chapter VII mandate (meaning its forces are under the discretion of the U.N. Security Council,) this mandate states clearly that its operations must be of “a limited character” – which has not exactly struck fear into the hearts of the guys with the guns terrorizing civilians.

Meanwhile, the U.N. has continued to shy away from even minor efforts to address the political crisis in Chad (by focusing on ending the rampant culture of impunity, for example). The UN could play a key role in laying the groundwork for an internationally-backed comprehensive political solution in Chad. Instead, MINURCAT’s approach continues to ignore the connection between instability in the East and a brutally repressive government in N’Djamena.