SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON PROGRESS SINCE TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY FROM EUROPEAN UNION TO UNITED NATIONS MISSION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, CHAD
SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON PROGRESS SINCE TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY FROM EUROPEAN UNION TO UNITED NATIONS MISSION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, CHAD
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6111th Meeting* (AM)
Security Council briefed on progress since transfer of authority From European Union
to United Nations mission in Central African Republic, chad
Assistant Secretary-General Says Troop Generation Slower than Anticipated;
Stresses Risk Posed to Force Operations by Shortfall in Military Helicopters
Troop generation for the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad had been slower than anticipated due to gaps in the provision of the necessary equipment, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council this morning during the first briefing since authority was transferred from the European Union-led EUFOR bridge force to the United Nations force on 15 March.
“I cannot sufficiently stress the risk posed by the lack of military helicopters for the force’s operational capability,” Edmond Mulet said during the morning briefing on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT).
Although the Mission’s military component stood at 2,425 troops as of 22 April, the Secretary-General’s previous expectation that the force would reach its full strength of 5,200 by the end of 2009 had been revised downward to 4,700, after the lack of certain equipment caused delays in the deployment of several battalions.
He stressed that these equipment gaps ‑‑ particularly a shortfall in military helicopters and a critical communications unit ‑‑ weakened the Mission’s ability to project force and conduct operations on a 24-hour basis. While MINURCAT could presently conduct 15 patrols a day, those operations were constrained in length and reach by the limited capacity of its civilian helicopters to ensure medical evacuations.
Against this backdrop, the Council should “leave no stone unturned” to ensure that the Mission had the military assets and political support it needed to fulfil its mandate, he said. Given how little progress had been made on the political track in Chad, on one hand, and between Chad and the Sudan on the other, Council members should also work to promote the reconciliation process throughout the region.
While the successful training and deployment of the 850-strong Détachement Intégré de Sécurité (DIS) force could help combat the persistently grave humanitarian situation in eastern Chad, he underscored how critical ongoing support to that force would be. Its deployment should especially be matched with corresponding progress in judicial and penal reform and respect for human rights, and Council members and donors could support those areas via the Mission’s Trust Fund.
Echoing these calls for support and speaking on behalf of the European Union, a representative of the Czech Republic encouraged the Secretariat and new troop-contributing countries to sustain efforts to quickly bring MINURCAT to full operational capability in order to preserve the positive outcomes provided by EUFOR. Outlining some of that force’s successes, which laid the ground for the United Nations follow-on force, he assured the Council that the European Union would remain politically and diplomatically active in the region.
Turning to the political arena, he welcomed the recent inclusive political dialogue in the Central African Republic, but stressed that all groups must refrain from violence in the north to “keep up this new momentum”. In Chad, the political process needed to progress in the framework of the 13 August 2007 Agreement regarding preparations for legislative elections. Moreover, the amelioration of relations between the Sudan and Chad could reduce tensions in the region and contribute to a solution to ongoing conflicts.
Chad’s representative said his Government had worked to ensure a smooth transition from EUFOR to the United Nations force and was willing to pursue further cooperation with MINURCAT, so that Mission could continue to carry out its mandate effectively in the east. However, to ensure the Mission’s success, there was a real need for consultation and full cooperation between Chadian authorities and MINURCAT on all matters highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report, including human rights, civil affairs, justice and prisons, and gender equality.
He stressed that Chad was also working to resolve its internal problems and disagreed that the political process agreed in 2007 was “at a standstill”. A compromise had been reached to ensure the independence of the independent electoral commission and electoral preparations were under way on the ground, including plans to conduct a nationwide census in May. Chadian authorities were also working towards national reconciliation with “so-called political and military elements”, with the implementation of agreements “on the right track”.
But, while it was willing to do all it could to pursue relations with the Sudan, Chad could not be blamed for defending itself, he said. Nor should the fact that it had done so be taken to mean it was abandoning efforts to normalize relations with the Sudan. Indeed, it hoped that future talks with the Sudan would open the way to true normalization of relations between the two countries.
Thanking the Assistant-Secretary-General for sending a “very strong signal” to the Security Council, the representative of the Central African Republic further underlined the seriousness of the lack of military equipment and urged its members to find a concrete solution as soon as possible. The Council should also take into account the “human dimension” facing civilians trapped between the rebel forces and a number of Government forces defending the State’s territory.
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and concluded at 10:55.
When the Security Council met today, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (document S/2009/199), which provides an update on developments related to that Mission’s mandate since his last report from 4 December 2008 (document S/2008/760).
The report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1861 (2009) of 14 January, by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) until 15 March 2010, authorized the deployment of a military component to follow up the European Union-led military force (EUFOR) in Chad and the Central African Republic, and decided that the transfer of authority between EUFOR and the military component of MINURCAT would take place on 15 March 2009.
In the report, the Secretary-General says Chadian armed opposition groups recently reasserted their intention to mobilize against Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno. On 18 January 2009, following a lull in the fighting and five months of negotiations, seven armed groups signed a manifesto establishing a new coalition called the Union des forces de la résistance (UFR). Only one Chadian armed opposition group remained outside the coalition.
Meanwhile, little progress was made in implementing the agreement of 13 August 2007 between the Government of Chad and the political opposition. Increases in the cost of living, combined with a number of austerity measures introduced by the Government in early 2009, resulted in significant social tensions, particularly in N’Djamena. On 23 March, the President also reshuffled his Cabinet.
Turning to political developments in the Central African Republic, the report says an inclusive political dialogue took place from 8 to 20 December 2008 between the Government and major political and military groups. On 19 January 2009, President Bozizé signed a decree establishing a new Government, but the political, security and socio-economic situation remained fragile.
In terms of regional developments, the Secretary-General says some progress was achieved towards a resolution of the Darfur conflict, with the Sudanese Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) signing an “Agreement of Goodwill and Confidence-Building” on 17 February in Doha. However, JEM suspended its participation in negotiations until the Sudanese Government reversed its decision to expel 13 international non-governmental organizations and dissolve three national non-governmental organizations operating in Darfur.
The report goes on to say that, since the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Sudan and Chad in November 2008, little progress was made in implementing the Dakar Agreement of 13 March 2008 between the two countries. Although the seventh meeting of the Dakar Contact Group was postponed indefinitely, the Sudan expressed its willingness for the Contact Group to meet in Khartoum before the end of April. But tensions remained high with the two Governments continuing to accuse each other of supporting armed opposition groups within their territories.
Turning to the security situation, the report states that several armed attacks against civilians were recorded in eastern Chad and at least 42 incidents against humanitarian workers were recorded in eastern Chad in the first three months of 2009. Chadian armed opposition groups continued to consolidate their forces in West Darfur and the Chadian National Armed Forces significantly strengthened their positions in the east in anticipation of a possible rebel offensive. However, no cross-border attacks were reported. The security situation remained relatively calm within the MINURCAT area of operations in the north-eastern Central African Republic.
The report says the humanitarian crisis in Eastern Chad remained grave, with over 50 humanitarian aid groups providing aid to approximately 250,000 Sudanese refugees in 12 camps, 166,000 internally displaced persons, and 700,000 among the local population. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees an estimated 16,000 new refugees had arrived in Chad in mid-January after clashes between rebel factions and the Government of the Central African Republic.
Regarding the ongoing deployment of the United Nations force, the report says that MINURCAT was working with the Governments of Chad and the Central African Republic to put in place the necessary legal and administrative arrangements. A memorandum of understanding was signed on 13 February between MINURCAT and Chad’s Government that provided for the transfer of EUFOR sites and infrastructure to MINURCAT. EUFOR officially transferred its military authority to the newly constituted military component of MINURCAT on 15 March. Its phased withdrawal should be completed by the end of May.
The report says that, as of 31 March 2009, MINURCAT had 2,079 troops ‑‑ or 40 per cent of its authorized strength of 5,200. The force’s build-up will be phased with its full troop strength expected by the end of 2009. However, the Secretariat had not received commitments for all force requirements. There were also no pledges for a signals unit or for rotations of logistic support and engineering elements. Pledges for only 6 of 18 military helicopters had been received.
Highlighting those deficiencies, the Secretary-General urges Member States to provide the missing force personnel and enablers, and encourages the Security Council to do likewise. Noting the successful completion of training for the 850-strong force of Détachement intégré de sécurité (DIS) officers, he appeals to donors to continue to provide financial support to the DIS Trust Fund. He says broad outlines for a strategic workplan to measure and track progress on the implementation of the benchmarks for MINURCAT’s withdrawal will be presented in his next report.
He also urges the Government of Chad and the political opposition to overcome their differences and arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement to allow the electoral process to move forward. He calls upon the Governments of Chad and the Sudan to act on their past commitments and exercise restraint in their military activities and political rhetoric, while further emphasizing the inviolability of international borders and underscoring that any movement across such borders by the armed forces of either country would exacerbate tensions.
The Council also had before it a letter dated 21 April 2009 from the Secretary-General to the Council President transmitting two reports on the activities of the European Union military operation in Chad and the Central African Republic, which will be issued as a Council document under the symbol S/2009/214.
EDMUND MULET, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, stressed that MINURCAT was a new force, only recently taking over from EUFOR on 15 March 2009. It had benefited from a number of countries that had prolonged their deployments under EUFOR to the United Nations Mission. A number of other States, like Ghana and Togo, had been able to begin deploying their troops before the force transfer. As a result, MINURCAT had 2,085 troops at the time of the transfer, and 2,425 as of 22 April.
Despite this encouraging beginning, there was an urgent need to strengthen MINURCAT to its authorized strength and to equip it to meet the numerous challenges it faced, he said. The Secretary-General remained particularly concerned over the process of troop generation, especially given the very brief period between the Council’s authorization of the Mission and the transfer of authority. The troop-contributing countries had had very little time to prepare for deployments. Ghana had recently indicated that it could not deploy a full battalion before 15 May, as it had intended. Due to delays in acquiring the equipment it needed, Ghana would only be in a position to deploy 200 advance troops, with a remaining 600 troops expected by October. The Nepalese police battalion, which constituted the reserve force at Abéché, would only be able to deploy 285 troops before the beginning of the rainy season. This delay was also due to problems with acquiring equipment.
He said the Secretary-General had, in his report, anticipated a phased scaling up in the force from 2,085 troops on 15 March to 3,845 by the end of June, and the full capacity of 5,200 by the end of 2009. But, it was necessary to make adjustments to those expectations. Namely, before the beginning of the rainy season at the end of June, the Mission’s strength would probably be 3,000 troops, with all units represented and a small reserve in Abéché. By year’s end, the total strength would be 4,700. Full force strength would be reached only if Members States provided the required military helicopters and support elements.
This highlighted the second issue that must be addressed with urgency, he said: the lack of essential material necessary for the force, particularly a communications unit at Abéché and military helicopters. Offers for only 6 of the needed 18 had been received, with the Russian Federation providing 4 Mi-8s. Twelve helicopters were still needed. Moreover, the Mission still lacked the permission from the troop-contributing countries for the troops that were deployed to operate the helicopters that had been deployed. That authorization was being sought at soon as possible. Further, even though Uruguay had committed to providing two helicopters, its parliament still had to approve that contribution.
“I cannot sufficiently stress the risk posed by the lack of military helicopters for the force’s operational capability”, he said. The Mission’s operations were predicated on its ability to deploy day and night, and these helicopters were needed to project force and allow operations on a 24-hour basis. Currently, the force’s civilian helicopters had a limited capacity for ensuring medical evacuations, and while MINURCAT could presently conduct 15 patrols a day, those operations were limited in length and reach by those restraints. He, thus, called on the Council to leave no stone unturned to ensure that MINURCAT had the necessary helicopters and to minimize the risks the force faced.
He said it was also urgent to meet the humanitarian, political and security challenges to the Mission. On the political track, little progress had been made by Chad, on the one hand, and between Chad and the Sudan on the other. The implementation of the agreement of 13 August 2007 between the Chadian Government and the political opposition was currently stalled, due to disagreements over electoral law. The armed Chadian opposition remained outside the political discussions and the Forces Armées Nationales Tchadiennes were consolidating their forces across the border. In this context, tensions between Chad and the Sudan remained difficult. Expressing hope that the Contact Group of the Dakar Agreement would find it possible to meet soon, he urged the Council to promote the reconciliation process and paid tribute to the efforts being made by Qatar and Libya in that regard.
He said that, in the absence of a political reconciliation, especially in Darfur, the humanitarian situation was particularly difficult. In March, 50 non-governmental organizations wrote to the Government of Chad to express concern over what they described as deteriorating conditions. They specifically cited the increasing number of armed attacks against aid workers. Within MINURCAT’s operational zone, an epidemic of meningitis had developed, with 914 cases as of 15 April. In the South, there was an ongoing flow of refugees into the Salamat from Central African Republic, as a result of clashes between the Army and the rebel factions. Between mid-January and 19 April, 17,621 new refugees had been counted. While a number of humanitarian sites had been set up, access remained difficult and would become only more so with the beginning of the rainy season.
Regarding security, he said that, given the lack of security in Eastern Chad, support to the Détachement intégré de sécurité (DIS) force was particularly critical. This new body, which provided law and order in refugee camps and other humanitarian sites, was now fully trained and 775 officers were deployed across Eastern Chad. But, it needed to be further consolidated and guided to carry out its vital functions in a manner consistent with its intended operations. Recent security incidents highlighted two different problems: the cases of ill-discipline among the DIS; and its vulnerability. Responses to those problems must strike a balance between maintaining the force’s credibility and safety, and the force’s retaining the trust of those it was intended to protect. The Chadian Government had proposed to arm the DIS with AK-47 submachine guns; that proposal should be carefully considered to ensure that the force maintained its posture as a community policing operation.
He said a midterm review of the DIS was planned in the coming weeks to take stock of its concept and performance and the impact of United Nations support, as well as to assess the funding situation, the means of increasing international support, and MINURCAT’s broader rule of law efforts. It was vital that the deployment of the DIS be matched with corresponding progress in judicial and penal reform and respect for human rights. To that end, he encouraged Council members and donors to support those areas via the Mission’s Trust Fund.
Turning to the legal and administrative arrangements for the Mission’s deployment, he said the Mission was working to build new airport parking spaces according to the memorandum of understanding signed between the United Nations and the Government of Chad on 13 February. He further stressed that the memorandum provided for unimpeded access to the two airport parking spaces in N’Djamena and Abéché. He also called on the Governments of Chad and the Central African Republic to conclude amendments to the Status Mission Agreements. Memorandums of Understanding with Libya and Cameroon for the transit of goods through their territories were also being discussed and he hoped they would soon be finalized.
He highlighted the development of the Mission’s strategic workplan, which was expected by July 2009. However, the benchmarks endorsed by the Council ‑‑ including the voluntary return of internally displaced persons, demilitarization of refugee and IDP camps, and improvement in capacity of the Chadian authorities to provide security with respect of human rights in its eastern regions ‑‑ would require broad efforts involving a number of actors. In this, the support of the Council was needed to ensure that the Mission had the military assets and political support required to carry out its mandate.
MARTIN PALOUŠ (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European military operation in Chad and the Central African Republic, EUFOR, had been a success story and had been proof of exemplary cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations ‑‑ from the launch of the operation through to the handover last month. The European Union had provided bridging military arrangements in the region pending the deployment of a United Nations force for one year, he added.
Turning to the report compiled by the European Union and requested by the Security Council in its resolution 1778 (2007), he said, through its mandate, EUFOR had made a tangible contribution towards protecting civilians in danger and, in particular, refugees and displaced persons who had been profoundly affected by the crisis in the region. During the reporting period ‑‑ from 15 September 2008 to 15 March 2009 ‑‑ EUFOR had conducted more than 2,300 short range patrols in the areas of the main internally displaced persons camps, and more than 260 long-range patrols in order to affirm its presence in other areas. The Force’s activities had also included active engagement with humanitarian actors on the ground, and it had also integrated into its conduct of the operation human rights issues and the protection of women and children in armed conflicts, consistent with relevant Council resolutions.
He went on to report that, beyond its mandate, the EUFOR had provided medical care for the local population and had facilitated the removal of unexploded ordnance devices contributing to the safety of the local population, and extracted humanitarian personnel from Ouandja in the Central African Republic in November 2008. He stressed that, throughout its time in the region, EUFOR had acted in an impartial and independent manner, and had been recognized as such by all parties on the ground. He said the EUFOR had assisted with the training of the Chadian police Détachement Intégré de Sécurité (DIS), and had established infrastructure, including six spacious and fully fledged military compounds in theatre, that had been transferred to Chad and onwards to MINURCAT, laying the ground for the deployment of the United Nations follow-on force.
He said that the European Union welcomed the holding of the inclusive political dialogue in the Central African Republic, and would stress the need to “keep up this new momentum”. However, he was concerned about the recent spate of violence in the north of the country and stressed that all groups must refrain from violence. In Chad, where the fragile situation contributed to a slowdown in the overall political agenda, the European Union continued to actively encourage the political process in the framework of the 13 August 2007 Agreement in the context of preparations for legislative elections.
The European Union also accorded great importance to the amelioration of relations between the Sudan and Chad in order to reduce tensions in the region and contribute to a solution to ongoing conflicts. To that end, the European Union hoped that the next meeting of the Dakar Contact Group would take place shortly. He went on to express concern that the expulsion of a number of humanitarian organizations from Darfur, and the subsequent reduced capacity to deliver humanitarian aid, could raise the spectre of a large number of new refugees crossing the border into Chad.
Finally, he welcomed the close cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations at both the Secretariat and the field levels, and said that, in order to preserve the positive outcomes provided by EUFOR, the European Union would encourage the Secretariat and new troop-contributing countries to sustain their efforts towards quickly bringing MINURCAT to full operational capability. He assured the Council that the European Union would remain politically and diplomatically active in the region.
AHMAD ALLAM-MI ( Chad) thanked the European Union for “performing to [ Chad’s] expectations”, especially regarding the protection of civilians in the east of the country. He said on 15 March EUFOR had transferred its authority to the United Nations, to the satisfaction of all parties on the ground. Chad had worked to ensure a smooth transition in that regard, and was willing to pursue further cooperation with MINURCAT, so that Mission could continue to carry out its mandate effectively in the east of country.
He stressed that Chad was working to resolve its internal problems, but did not understand why the Secretary-General’s report characterized the application of the political process agreed in 2007 as “at a standstill”. Unfortunately, some had hastened to bring up only that point of the report to describe the political situation in Chad. Naturally, there were problems, but many of them had been overcome, thanks to mediation among parties to the agreement and other partners. A compromise had been reached to amend the bylaws of the independent electoral commission to ensure its independence was not contested in any way. Further, preparations were well under way on the ground, including plans to conduct a nationwide census in May, to organize free and transparent elections in line with signed agreements between the parties.
He went on to say that Chadian authorities were working towards national reconciliation with “so-called political and military elements”, and implementation of agreements to that end were “on the right track”. At the same time, however, he encouraged those that the report “mistakenly” referred to as “armed opposition” to renounce violence and the use of force and adhere to agreement of August 2007 and cooperate in the rehabilitation of the country. Those groups should contribute to consolidating the rule of law, rather than ignore the agreement. “We expect a real commitment from them,” he said, but added that Chad was not too hopeful of that, because those groups were under the Machiavellian sway of their benefactors. “That is why we refer to them as mercenaries, paid by our neighbour.”
Nevertheless, Chad was willing to do all it could to deter those groups and to pursue relations with the Sudan, he said, stressing that his country could not be blamed for defending itself. Chad would assure the Secretary-General and the Security Council that the fact that it had taken steps to defend itself militarily did not mean it was abandoning efforts to normalize relations with its neighbour, the Sudan, with which it had historic neighbourly relations. Chad reiterated its commitment to all agreements that linked it to brotherly countries. Chad was willing to help solve the conflict in Darfur and hoped that upcoming talks between Chad and the Sudan would open the way to true normalization of relations between the two countries.
He said that Chadian authorities would not be willing to accept a document that proposed changes to MINURCAT’s structure that had been prepared in advance, offered on a “take it or leave it basis”. He proposed that talks take place in N’Djamena between relevant authorities and representatives of the Secretariat. Such talks should take into account the sovereignty and concerns of Chad, without losing sight of relevant resolutions of the General Assembly.
Further, on installing a communications system, he said Chadian authorities did not understand the delay. The promise had been made on 5 February to complete work before the end of the month to install the VHF radio system. Since the job had not been completed, DIS forces were seriously handicapped, because they could not communicate with their base. There were other logistical challenges, especially as that force was seriously under-equipped, and lacked the vehicles needed for it to carry out its duties. The DIS would need funds in order to transition from a donor-supported initiative to one financed by the Government of Chad, he added.
Finally, he said there was a real need for consultation and full cooperation between Chadian authorities and MINURCAT on all matters highlighted in the report, including human rights, civil affairs, justice and prisons, and gender equality. The very success of the Mission depended on such cooperation. Chad’s remarks had been made in a constructive spirit and Chad reiterated its willingness to fully cooperate on a sound basis with the United Nations, so the world body could carry out its noble mission to preserve peace and security in the east of his country and the wider region.
FERNAND POUKRÉ-KONO ( Central African Republic) conveyed his delegation’s gratitude to the Assistant Secretary-General for presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in the region. He also extended his country’s gratitude to the EUFOR troops for their contribution to efforts to appease tensions in the region, as well as tensions between certain rebel groups and the civilian population. Further, he thanked Mr. Mulet for sending a “very strong signal” to the Security Council to ensure that the lack of military equipment be taken seriously and that a solution to that situation be found as soon as possible.
“If what we generally wish to see is genuine pace and political stability, I believe, it is normal that the Security Council should address this,” he said, adding that the Council should also take into account the human aspect or the situation facing civilians trapped between the rebel forces and a number of Government forces defending the State’s territory. “I believe that the briefing and the Secretary-General’s report call on all of us to find a concrete solution,” he said.
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* The 6109th and 6110th Meetings were closed.