|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on United Nations Mission in Central African Republic and Chad
Chad wished to work out a compromise between a total withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) and merely extending its mandate as it stood, the country’s Permanent Representative said at Headquarters this morning.
Ahmad Allam-mi said at a press conference this morning that the military component of MINURCAT ‑‑ established in 2007 to ensure the security of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Darfur, other displaced persons and humanitarian workers ‑‑ had served its purpose for a certain period of time, but with new agreements on border security between his country and the Sudan, and with the Mission not strong enough to provide complete security in eastern Chad, it was better for Chadian forces to take over, and to adjust the mandate before it expired in March 2010.
“MINURCAT’s military presence causes difficulties and it is time to consider its withdrawal,” he said. “Should we continue to spend vast amounts of money without achieving tangible results, or should we think about how to build Chad’s capacities?” He said his country had wanted to retain the Mission’s civilian component and reduce its military component, but had been told that the two were integrally related. Talks on a compromise had begun with the Secretariat, and a United Nations technical team had already been dispatched to Chad.
“We need to take stock with our partners to see what needs to be improved, what should be set aside and what should be discarded,” the Permanent Representative said, emphasizing, however, that Chad was not calling for an immediate withdrawal of the military component, but an “interim solution”. Difficulties caused by MINURCAT’s presence included a 300 per cent increase in the cost of living in eastern Chad, he said, noting that sheep had previously cost 15,000 Central African francs (CFA) each, compared to 50,000 CFA today.
He went on to state that Chad lacked the infrastructure to support the heavy road and air traffic caused by the Mission, noting that roads had been severely degraded, while the heavy airport traffic impeded domestic military operations. Rather than spending international resources on MINURCAT’s military component, it might be better to strengthen the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), so that refugees did not have to flee into Chad.
Accusations that the authorities wanted the Mission out before legislative elections were held this year, thus removing potential witnesses to fraud, were a “totally baseless rumour”, Mr. Allam-mi said, pointing out that elections were not even included in MINURCAT’s mandate. The polls would take place under the aegis of the European Union, and many international observers would be in the country to ensure they were free and transparent.
Responding to a suggestion that Chad might be threatening to evict the Mission because it wanted to negotiate higher fees for landing at the airport, he said no taxes were being collected for airport privileges.
Asked why he had complained about MINURCAT not having reached full military deployment if his country wanted a withdrawal, he said that, even if it reached full deployment, the Mission would not be able to secure its entire area of responsibility. A more mobile force was needed.
In response to other questions, he said MINURCAT’s assistance was still needed for capacity-building including its support for Chad’s Détachement Integré de Sécurité, and for the development of courts, which needed to be completed.
Regarding remarks by President Idriss Déby that MINURCAT had not fulfilled its development objectives, he said that refugees, other displaced people and local residents in eastern Chad could become dependent on international assistance, and called for measures to help them become independent.
Development and reinsertion projects did not require a military component, he pointed out, welcoming the continuation of projects by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Community.
* *** *For information media • not an official record