Ban outlines proposals for reduced UN force in Chad

MINURCAT peacekeeper with Sudanese children from the Oure Cassoni refugee camp in Bahaï, Eastern Chad

4 May 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon laid out his proposals for a revised mandate for the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad in a new report released today, including a significant reduction of troops in response to the latter country’s request to assume full responsibility for protecting civilians in its territory.

Last month UN and Chadian officials agreed on a major initial reduction of peacekeepers there after the Government had called for the withdrawal of the military component of the mission, known as MINURCAT, saying the force had served its purpose.

The Security Council set up MINURCAT, whose current mandate expires on 15 May, over two years ago to ensure the security of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Sudanese region of Darfur, other displaced persons and humanitarian workers in both Chad and the CAR.

But with new agreements on border security between Chad and Sudan, and with MINURCAT not strong enough to provide complete security in eastern Chad, the Government felt it was better for Chadian forces to take over and for the mandate to be adjusted.

“The central point of contention between the United Nations and the Chadian authorities arose when the latter made it clear that they would, following the end of the mandate of MINURCAT on 15 May, bear the primary responsibility for the security and protection of civilians,” Mr. Ban writes in his report to the Council.

“And as a consequence, they saw no justification for the continuation of the military component of the mission,” he adds.

The Secretary-General states that the proposed mandate, arising from the last round of discussions between the UN and the Chadian Government, aims at safeguarding recent advances – including the “significantly” improved relations between Chad and Sudan – and ensuring their sustainability, while allowing for a gradual and phased withdrawal of the military component.

Subject to a decision by the Council, the mission’s military component in Chad will be reduced from its current 3,300 troops, out of its authorized strength of 4,900, to 1,400 troops and 500 support elements. The number to be withdrawn will therefore be approximately 1,400 troops.

MINURCAT, with the support of the Chadian Government, will ensure the withdrawal of these 1,400 troops by 15 July. The remaining 1,900 troops will be in Chad until 15 October 2010, when they will cease all operations and commence their final withdrawal, subject to approval by the Council.

Given the reduction in military capabilities, says the Secretary-General, the force would operate under Chapter VI of the UN Charter and modify its rules of engagement to support such operations, that is, the use of force in self-defence.

In addition, Mr. Ban states that, effective 16 May, the current mandate of MINURCAT for the protection of civilians will cease, and security tasks related to the protection of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and humanitarian workers will be carried out by Chadian police forces, primarily the UN-trained Détachement intégré de sécurité (DIS).

At least half a million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance in eastern Chad, according to the report, including some 250,000 refugees from Darfur, 168,000 IDPs and 150,000 people in host villages.

Meanwhile, the MINURCAT police component will continue to train, mentor and support the efforts of the Government to enable the DIS to become self-sustainable.

“Should the Council decide to adopt a new mandate for MINURCAT, a phased approach will enable the mission to gradually transit from a Chapter VII mandate to a Chapter VI mandate and allow for the enhanced United Nations staff security regime to be in place before MINURCAT troops commence their final withdrawal in October 2010,” says Mr. Ban.

“Another advantage of such an approach is that it will permit those humanitarian actors who currently benefit from the armed escort and patrols of the military component to gradually adjust their deployment and modus operandi.”

Given the time required to effectively manage the above transitions and the fact that many of the projects proposed to support DIS will necessarily go beyond the end of 2010, the Secretary-General recommends that the Council approved a revised mandate for MINURCAT for one year.

“In making the above proposal, I am mindful that Chad is situated in a region that, despite some recent positive developments, remains fragile,” Mr. Ban states, noting that the continued instability in the north-eastern part of CAR bordering Chad and Sudan is of particular concern.

This accounts for the continuing presence, until further notice, of a MINURCAT contingent of 300 soldiers in that region near the town of Birao, he adds.

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