The Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to gradually pull out the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Chad and Central African Republic, or MINURCAT, despite concerns raised by human rights and humanitarian aid agencies.
According to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s recommendations, which the council voted to adopt yesterday, a third of the current number of troops will be cut July 15, from 3,300 to 2,200; remaining troops will be withdrawn beginning October 15.
As we’ve mentioned on this blog, of particular concern is the security of the estimated 270,000 Darfuri refugees and 170,000 internally displaced in eastern Chad—both byproducts of continued violence in Darfur and hostile Chad-Sudan relations. In a recent press release, Amnesty International said the withdrawal of peacekeepers will put the safety of these populations at risk.
“The Security Council’s decision to withdraw peacekeepers is premature and dangerous. It will increase insecurity in the area and undermine attempts to provide emergency humanitarian assistance,” said Amnesty International’s Africa director.
There are also fears that the operational environment for aid agencies will become too hazardous with the withdrawal of the U.N. mission. A spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency told BBC that U.N. troops were more able to provide security than Chadian forces and that the situation on the ground remains “very volatile.”
“We understand the reasons behind [the decision] but we are concerned for the consequences for our operations in eastern Chad,” the spokesperson said. “When they leave, we might have to restrict our operations.”
The Chadian foreign minister said that MINURCAT’s departure will not leave a security vacuum and that their presence will be replaced with a mixed Chadian-Sudanese force of 3,000 men as well as Chadian police and security forces.
Photo: School children in a Darfuri refugee camp in Chad