12 December 2008
Security Council
SC/9536

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6042nd Meeting (PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON PREPARATIONS FOR TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY FROM EUROPEAN


UNION TO UNITED NATIONS IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, CHAD


Briefing the Security Council this afternoon, the United Nations top official in the Central African Republic and Chad reported excellent cooperation with the Governments of Chad and the Central African Republic, the European Union-led military force (EUFOR), the United Nations country team and the humanitarian community in preparation for a transfer of authority from EUFOR to a United Nations military force on 15 March next year.


Providing an update on the planning and preparations for that transfer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), Victor da Silva Angelo, said that the Government of Chad, initially reluctant to accept a United Nations force of 6,000, had, on 29 November, given its consent to the deployment of a 4,900-strong force the east of the country.


In connection with the Council’s request that a military presence be established in the north-eastern region of the Central African Republic, he said that the Secretary-General had presented three options.  [According to the report before the Council, they amount to a small military detachment that would conduct routine visits to Birao; a detachment to provide force protection for one consolidated site; or a force that can project deterrent and reconnaissance patrols in the area of up to 350 kilometres.]  Should the Council desire to establish a permanent military presence there, the force would need to have a more visible and wide presence than that of EUFOR and also possess the capability to undertake regular patrols to Sam Ouandha, 200 kilometres south of Birao, where an important refugee camp was located.


He also told the Council that the Secretariat had been actively engaged in the force-generation process to ensure that there was no security vacuum at the end of EUFOR’s mandate.  Sixteen nations had indicated a willingness to positively consider contributing to MINURCAT, but their firm commitment was contingent on assurances that other troop-contributing countries could provide enablers.  To ensure the smoothest possible transition, commitments from EUFOR contributors to rehat, even for a transitional period, needed to be confirmed in the coming days.  Beyond rehatting, MINURCAT would require strong support from Member States with regard to force generation, including equipment.


Speaking after the briefing, representatives of both Chad and Central African Republic tied insecurity in the region to the conflict in Darfur.


Refugees and internally displaced persons camps, forced recruitment, trafficking in weaponry, and impunity were all consequences of the Darfur crisis, Chad’s representative said.  He would favour moving the camps, or true neutralization of the zone, with Chad responsible for securing its frontiers.  In Chad, there was no political resolve to favour impunity –- there were, rather, weak capacities against the situation on the ground, and the international community was called upon to help.  Resolving the Darfur crisis would be a solution to the situation in eastern Chad, and his Government would spare no effort in that regard.  No Sudanese movement had received or would receive support from Chad, except in the interests of peace.


The representative of Central African Republic said his country was trying to emerge from two decades of civil and military upheaval, but the recently started political dialogue showed that the Government and the people wanted to turn a new page in the country’s history.  The State, however, was still very fragile.


Humanitarian workers would be welcome as soon as the situation had improved, but stabilization of the area had not yet begun, he added.  The State had just started its security sector reform, a process that would take time and needed additional resources.  The little stability there was had been generated by EUFOR.  There was a need to establish law and order, with the help of the United Nations.  As his country did not want to leave a security vacuum, he requested that an operational unit of 500 troops remain in the Birao area. 


France’s representative said, in that regard, that it was essential to have a credible military presence in the north-eastern part of the Central African Republic to avoid destabilization.  It was because EUFOR was present in Birao that the situation had stabilized, although the situation was still fragile.  He supported the option of having a deterrent force in Birao.  On 15 March, he hoped the United Nations would be there to take over from the European Union.  From the beginning, the European Union had said it would be a transitional force, and it was necessary to prepare carefully for the takeover.  He urged the Secretary-General to invite potential troop-contributing countries to join those discussions.  The French delegation would circulate a draft, which, he hoped, the Council would be able to adopt swiftly to allow a smooth transition from EUFOR to MINURCAT on 15 March 2009.


Regarding EUFOR, he said it was the largest military operation of the European Union to date, and that was a further indication of what the European Union could do in support of United Nations action.  He also stressed the importance of MINURCAT and the Détachement Intégré de Sécurité (DIS) and reiterated full support for the work of the Special Representative.


Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of Costa Rica and Italy.


The meeting was called to order at 3:40 p.m. and adjourned at 4:30 p.m.


Background


The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) (document S/2008/760), which provides an update on developments related to MINURCAT’s mandate since the last report of 12 September.  It outlines preparations, made in close cooperation with the European Union, for the transfer of authority from the European Union Force (EUFOR) to a United Nations military component, including options on the size, structure and mandate of the proposed presence.


Among recent developments, the report notes that, in Chad, limited progress has been made towards the implementation of electoral reforms, with the Government having yet to approve and submit draft bills related to the electoral law and creation of the National Electoral Commission to Parliament for formal consideration.  Efforts to normalize relations with the Sudan continued, with the Dakar Agreement Contact Group’s 15 November communiqué detailing its approval for a peace and security force along the border of the two countries.  In the Central African Republic, the report notes the 8 November attack by an unidentified group on the Sam Oundja refugee camp, which houses Darfurian refugees.


Other issues covered in the report include implementation of the MINURCAT mandate, EUFOR deployment, expanded MINURCAT presence post-EUFOR, United Nations force concept of operations, force generation and military planning, arrangements for a post-EUFOR presence, and benchmarks for MINURCAT withdrawal.


The report provides various observations, the first of which describes the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the Governments of Chad and the Sudan as a positive step to be consolidated.  The Secretary-General applauds the Chadian Government’s commitment to negotiate an end to the conflict, calls on Chadian armed opposition groups to lay down their arms and acknowledges the key role of Libya in facilitating dialogue between the concerned parties.


Regarding the establishment of a democratic system of governance in Chad, the report states that efforts will not bear fruit without addressing the issues of impunity and armed opposition.  Technical support to strengthen the rule of law must be sustained.  As for the MINURCAT managed trust fund, $18 million of $21.6 million pledged by donors has been received, and the fund faces exhaustion by first-quarter 2009.


The report notes that most refugees and internally displaced persons in eastern Chad will continue to need humanitarian assistance, and that EUFOR has facilitated the conditions under which such assistance can be delivered.  With EUFOR’s mandate ending 15 March, the United Nations has further refined a concept of operations for the follow-on United Nations force, which recommends a minimum force requirement of 4,900 troops.


The report welcomes Chad’s agreement to that troop requirement, and notes that, prior to the deployment of the new force, it will be necessary to finalize the status-of-forces agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding transferring all sites and infrastructure used by EUFOR to the United Nations.


The Central African Republic has indicated a willingness to accept a United Nations force presence in the north-east of the country, and the Secretary-General has proposed three options for a United Nations force presence in Chad and north-eastern Central African Republic, contained in section VI of the report.


Briefing


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MINURCAT, VICTOR DA SILVA ANGELO, recalled that, following his last briefing on 19 September, the Council, in resolution 1834 (2008), had stated its intention to authorize the deployment of a United Nations military force to follow-up EUFOR and requested an update on the planning and preparations for such a transfer of authority.  For that purpose, a technical assessment mission had visited Chad and the Central African Republic in October.  Subsequently, the United Nations had held extensive discussions with both Governments, troop contributors and EUFOR.


The Chadian Government had initially expressed reluctance to accept a United Nations force of 6,000, stating that the security situation had improved and that such a force would place an excessive burden on the environment.  Following high-level consultations in New York and in the field, on 29 November, President Idriss Deby Itno had given his consent to the deployment of a 4,900-strong force in eastern Chad.  To provide for that, feasible reductions had been identified, including in helicopter support troops, signal units, special forces, reconnaissance units and some logistical elements.  That would reduce the logistical support and enablers to a minimum.  Any further adjustments in the force would seriously impact its ability to implement its mandate.


In connection with the Council’s specific request that a military presence be established in the north-eastern region of the Central African Republic, the report presented three options, he said.  Should the Council desire to establish a permanent military presence there, the force would need to have a more visible and wide presence than that of EUFOR, and also possess the capability to undertake regular patrols to Sam Ouandha, 200 kilometres south of Birao, where an important refugee camp was located.  In the meantime, the Secretariat had been actively engaged in the force generation process to ensure that there was no security vacuum at the end of EUFOR’s mandate.  Sixteen nations had indicated willingness to positively consider contributing to MINURCAT, but their firm commitment was contingent on assurances that other troop-contributing countries could provide enablers, such as the medical level-II hospital.  To ensure the smoothest possible transition, commitments from EUFOR contributors to rehat, even for a transitional period, needed to be confirmed in the coming days.


Beyond rehatting, MINURCAT would require strong support from Member States with regard to force generation, he said, including equipment and enablers.  Given the fluid security situation, challenging geography and climate, the United Nations force must be highly mobile.  He encouraged all Member States to provide the necessary troops and support elements as soon as possible.  Also needed was full freedom of movement.  Prior to the deployment of the force, the status-of-forces agreement with Chad and the Central African Republic should be concluded, in addition to the Memorandum of Understanding in relation to infrastructure and the transfer and use of EUFOR sites.  Following the meeting between the Secretary-General and President Deby in Doha, a team of senior technical experts would travel to the region next week for further consultations with national authorities on legal and administrative arrangements.  MINURCAT had already engaged appropriate authorities on the substance of those arrangements.


The situation in Chad remained fragile, he continued.  There had been some progress with the submission to the National Assembly of the draft bills on electoral reform.  Progress in the implementation of the Sirte Agreement of 25 October 2007 between the Government of Chad and the main rebel groups had been limited.  Both Chadian Armed Forces and rebel groups had reportedly strengthened their positions on either side of the border in recent months.


Regular meetings of the Contact Group established under the Dakar Agreement of 13 March 2008 and recent resumption of diplomatic relations between Chad and Sudan were encouraging, he said.  MINURCAT would continue to support the Contact Group, because it saw the normalization of the relations between the two countries as critical for improved security in the region.  In connection with the Chad-Sudan relations, he added that, today, senior United Nations officials in Sudan had been called to see Government officials and were told that the Government had identified a Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) column convoy.  While he had no confirmation of that information, he would be worried if it was to be confirmed.  The relations between Chad and Sudan should normalize as part of security and stabilization in the region.


On the humanitarian front, Chad continued to face a serious crisis.  Further, reports of militant activity in the camps, including recruitment of child soldiers, were very disturbing.  So was the ongoing prevalence of attacks against humanitarian workers and civilian populations.  MINURCAT had continued to work with Chadian authorities to facilitate the training and deployment of the Détachement Intégré de Sécurité (DIS) following its official establishment in late September.  As of today, 225 out of 418 already trained DIS officers had been deployed in the field.  The target of training 850 DIS officers should be achieved in January.  The deployment of DIS was ongoing, despite significant logistical constraints.


As of today, the MINURCAT trust fund had received some $19.31 million in donor contributions, out of the estimated $23 million required to support DIS in its first year of operations.  However, the trust fund was being depleted faster than expected.  MINURCAT was working closely with the European Union and other donors towards holding an international donors’ conference in Brussels in early 2009.  Meanwhile, it was important that donors continued to provide support to the trust fund.


He also reported excellent cooperation with the Governments of Chad, the Central African Republic, EUFOR, the United Nations country team and the humanitarian community.  MINURCAT would continue to collaborate and consult with all relevant partners in implementation of its mandate.  The Mission was committed to helping create the security conditions conducive to a voluntary, secure and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons.  It was, nevertheless, important to stress that stability in Chad would also depend on the serious engagement of the Government and opposition leaders in a democratic dialogue towards political transparency and good governance.  Working in collaboration with the international community, the United Nations stood ready to assist the parties in the peaceful settlement of their differences.


Statements


FERNAND POUKRE-KONO ( Central African Republic) said the Secretary-General’s report had given rise to some questions.  One could ask if the forces of the Central African Republic were sufficiently battle-tested to ensure safety and security in the northern part of the country.  The security issue was affected by a complex crisis in the subregion, particularly in Darfur, and the Armed Forces were unable to impose order.  His country was trying to emerge from two decades of civil and military upheaval, but the recently started political dialogue showed that the Government and the people wanted to turn a new page in the country’s history.  The State, however, was still very fragile.  Although he welcomed the technical mission’s report, he noted there was nothing in it about exchanges with Central African Republic authorities.  There was also a question about the wide range of numbers in the three options proposed.  The conclusions did not seem to be very strong.


He said the region bordered on the Sudan and Chad.  It had a lot of mineral resources and a fauna that had been decimated by poachers over the last decades.  With the Darfur crisis, refugees were pouring in and, because of rebels, displaced persons were also seeking refuge.  Humanitarian workers would be welcome as soon as the situation had improved, but stabilization of the area had not yet begun.  The State had just started its security sector reform, a process that would take time and needed additional resources.  The little stability there was had been generated by EUFOR.  There was a need to establish law and order, with the help of the United Nations.  As his country did not want to leave a security vacuum, he requested that an operational unit of 500 troops remain in the Birao area.


AHMAD ALLAM-MI ( Chad) said that many valuable lessons could be drawn from the experience of EUFOR in the establishment of the new force.  In the context of fruitful consultations between competent Chadian authorities and the team of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the parties were not far from reaching final shared conclusions to have an effective transfer of authority to the new force as of 15 March 2009.  In that connection, he also underscored his delegation’s support for the request by the Central African Republic, as stated by the representative of that country, for the renewal and strengthening of the MINURCAT presence in eastern Central African Republic.  He also reiterated his Government’s position that, to guarantee the lasting effects of the United Nations presence in eastern Chad, there were no grounds to give it a political mandate.  Rather, it was important to ensure heightened efficiency.  So, the negotiations were not unnecessarily complicated.


Turning to the deployment of DIS, he said that the deployment of 850 planned elements had been late, given the slowness and limited capacity of the United Nations centre responsible for early training.  He believed that DIS should be augmented to 1,700 elements.  Financing of DIS should come out of the United Nations budget.  In the absence of that, he appealed for contributions to the trust fund.  No military force could guarantee security unless there was a political context to underline the changes.  However, the force must serve the democratic rule of law established in Chad and must be stronger than the illegal groups maintained by external forces.  The establishment of the rule of law and democracy in Chad would require stability and peace in the country.


The origin of insecurity came from the east of his country, destabilized by the crisis in Darfur, he said.  Not intending to poison relations with Chad’s neighbours and friends, he said he did not understand some observations seeking to equate the aggressor and the victims, seeking to justify the causes by the consequences.  Refugee and internally displaced persons camps, forced recruitment, trafficking in weaponry, and impunity were all consequences of the Darfur crisis.  He would favour moving the camps, or true neutralization of the zone, with Chad responsible for securing its frontiers.  That was the truth of the matter.  In Chad, there was no political resolve to favour impunity –- there were, rather, weak capacities against the situation on the ground.  The international community was called upon to help strengthen Chad’s capacity.


Resolving the Darfur crisis would be a solution to the situation in eastern Chad, and his Government would spare no effort in that regard, he said.  No Sudanese movement had received or would receive support from Chad, except in the interests of peace.  The rebels might enjoy local solidarity, but it was not the responsibility of the Government.  The Chadian armed groups must refrain from the use of force and return to the country under the Sirte Agreement.  Above all, the establishment of lasting peace would require the establishment of the democratic rule of law, through effective implementation of the provisions of the agreement of August 2007.  Despite the criticism of the opposition, the Government believed the process was headed in the right direction and would result in successful elections.


In conclusion, he expressed his country’s gratitude to the European Union, which had answered the call to best protect individuals exposed to insecurity in eastern Chad.  In particular, he thanked France and underscored that, in contrast to allegations against that country, the operation was not seeking to support the regime, but to help the people.  He also commended the activities of the humanitarian organizations that were operating for the sake of vulnerable people.   Chad was ready to cooperate with the United Nations, with a view to replacing EUFOR with a military component of MINURCAT.


JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said a United Nations military operation that would replace EUFOR, a concept he supported, should include a highly mobile and responsive capacity, including a strong air capacity.  Of the three options proposed, he tended to favour the second option.  The first option might lead to a security vacuum.  A military component to MINURCAT would only be effective if the mandate also included support for Chadian stakeholders in addressing the underlying causes of insecurity.  He would like more information on MINURCAT’s work in promoting dialogue and reconciliation at the local level.


He said the support activities of the Mission could include support for authorities’ efforts to resolve local tensions to enhance the environment for the return of internally displaced persons and for the Government’s efforts to end impunity for crimes against humanitarian workers, among other things.  Through such efforts, it would be possible to meet the benchmarks set for MINURCAT’s withdrawal.  He welcomed the exchange of ambassadors between Chad and the Sudan, and condemned the attacks on and harassment of humanitarian workers in the east of Chad.  He hoped the deployment of the second MINURCAT force would provide hope and relief to them.


JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) said that the civilians in north-east Central African Republic and eastern Chad were still in a vulnerable situation.  The Darfur crisis had humanitarian consequences in the region, and many civilians were in need of assistance.  He urged all the parties to respect the freedom of movement of humanitarian workers.  He was also disturbed with the information regarding armed groups recruiting in camps, and called for full respect for the civilian and humanitarian character of the camps.  He agreed with the Secretary-General regarding the results of EUFOR in Chad and Central African Republic.  Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes had also said that the international presence had helped make the region more secure and provided protection for civilians.  Of course, not all problems had been resolved and it was too soon to relax.  However, the initial return of some displaced persons was encouraging.


EUFOR was the largest military operation of the European Union to date, and that was further indication of what the European Union could do in support of United Nations action, he continued.  He also stressed the importance of MINURCAT and DIS, and reiterated full support for the work of the Special Representative.  He welcomed the initial deployment of DIS, which had, at first, been somewhat delayed.  He hoped all DIS would be deployed very soon.  Resolution 1778 (2007) offered a rather novel structure for the mission, where one part could not succeed without another.  He thanked the Secretary-General for the report on follow-up to EUFOR, once it expired.  He welcomed the agreement between the Secretary-General and President Deby on the number of troops to be deployed in Chad, as well as the intention to ensure proper geographic coverage.


On the Central African Republic side of the matter, he said it was essential to have a credible military presence in the north-eastern part of the country to avoid destabilization.  It was because EUFOR was present in Birao that the situation had stabilized, although it was still fragile.  He supported the option to have a deterrent force in Birao, and he stood ready to discuss the modalities of such deployment. On 15 March, he hoped the United Nations would be there to take over from the European Union.  From the beginning, the European Union had said it would be a transitional force, and it was necessary to prepare carefully for the takeover.  He urged the Secretary-General to invite potential troop-contributing countries to join those discussions.  The French delegation would circulate a draft, which, he hoped, the Council would be able to adopt swiftly to allow a smooth transition from EUFOR to MINURCAT on 15 March.


GIULIO TERZI ( Italy) said the picture emerging from the report was a mixed one.  Instability prevailed in the eastern part of Chad, mainly due to banditry, but the improvement of relations between Chad and Sudan was an encouraging sign.  It was important to continue to provide a security framework in the eastern part of Chad, an objective that could be served by the transition of EUFOR to a United Nations operation.  It was essential that the root causes of instability be addressed.


He said that, as for the number of troops required and in light of other demands for troops in Africa, resources must be managed in a fair way.  In that regard, he also drew attention to the need for support of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).


* *** *


For information media • not an official record