|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6449th Meeting (PM)
United Nations Mission in Central African Republic and Chad to Begin Process
of Liquidation on 1 January, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Host Country Representatives Address Members after Final MINURCAT Briefing
The United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) would “lower its flag” at the end of December and start liquidation on 1 January 2011, Youssef Mahmoud, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission told the Security Council today.
Briefing on the situation in Chad, the Central African Republic and the subregion as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report(document S/2010/611), Mr. Mahmoud said all of MINURCAT’s administrative, management and operational responsibilities had been transferred to the Détachement intégré de sécurité (DIS), under the supervision of United Nations police. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would be helping the Government of Chad sustain DIS through, among other things, the creation of a UNDP-managed “basket fund” and operational assistance provided by UNHCR.
Noting that the security situation in Chad remained relatively calm, he said fears that widespread criminal activities would resume after the rainy season had proved to be unfounded thanks to the vigilance of the central and local authorities, the increased effectiveness of DIS and patrols by the joint Sudan-Chad border patrols. However, DIS would require continued assistance of the international community during the post-MINURCAT period. And while the situation in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons was also relatively calm, humanitarian assistance needs remained immense because Chad was still hosting more than 250,000 refugees as it struggled to cope with heavy rains in the east and elsewhere.
He said that, in line with the Government’s early-recovery programme in eastern Chad, the substantive sections of MINURCAT had spared no effort in consolidating their achievements in the areas of rule of law, human rights, gender, HIV/AIDS and intercommunity dialogue, and in transferring those activities to the Government, United Nations agencies and other partners. The Mission’s programmes would be officially handed over on 21 December to the Government and the United Nations country team, marking the end of MINURCAT’s activities.
By 31 December, all uniformed Mission personnel would have left Chad and the Central African Republic, he announced, pointing out that MINURCAT had withdrawn from the latter country on 15 November. The Force Commander would be the last military member of the Mission to leave Chad, on 18 December, and the last United Nations police officer would leave on 29 December. Only civilian staff required for the liquidation of MINURCAT would remain in Chad after 31 December.
The situation in north-eastern Central African Republic remained a source of concern, he said, recalling that on 24 November, barely 10 days after the Mission’s withdrawal, a rebel group had attacked the town of Birao and occupied its camps. Although Government authorities had regained control of the camps, sustained attention to the eastern part of the Central African Republic would be required in light of the need for regional stability.
He said the key findings of a lessons-learned study commissioned by MINURCAT included the necessity of securing and sustaining the consent of the host nations and the creation of a nationally owned, internationally supported security entity to protect civilians. Despite the challenges it had encountered and its short existence, the Mission had made some noticeable achievements, as a result of which eastern Chad would never be the same. MINURCAT had not only participated in the physical protection of civilians, refugees, internally displaced persons, host communities and humanitarian personnel, he said, pointing out that it had also provided legal and social protection. That was appreciated by the Government and host communities.
Fernand Poukré-Kono (Central African Republic) then took the floor to say that the lessons of MINURCAT, as presented in the report, were a source of inspiration for both peacekeeping missions and Member States. They showed that misunderstandings could be overcome. The Mission had helped to guarantee a relatively stable environment in north-eastern Central African Republic, among other positive effects.
Recalling the Council’s previous discussions on helping to fill the security role after MINURCAT’s withdrawal, he said the 24 November assault on Birao had surprised everyone because the attackers had used heavy weaponry. Such weaponry could be accounted for if it was recognized that rebels from Sudan’s Darfur region had come in to join local rebels. Surmising that the Sudanese rebels wished to replicate the situation in Darfur, he asked the Council to be vigilant with regard to the possibility of a cross-border rebel coalition.
The holding of elections early next year was a choice that the Government had made in order to allow the population to uphold their civic duty, he said. They could be held successfully with international assistance. Calm had now returned to the north-east, he said, pointing out that President Francois Bozizé had visited Birao four days ago to reassure the local population.
Reiterating his appeal for the international community to support the national armed forces so they could provide the security necessary for the elections to take place, he said there had not yet been a response to that request, adding that his country’s army could not remain passive vis-à-vis other well-equipped regional forces. The withdrawal of MINURCAT was an opportunity to advance security-sector reform as well as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.
Ahmad Allah-mi (Chad) said the Secretary-General’s report was an accurate depiction of the realities on the ground and made relevant recommendations which the Council should take into account. Welcoming the timely implementation of MINURCAT’s drawdown and the transfer of its responsibilities in eastern Chad to the Government, he noted that since the beginning of the withdrawal process, the security situation in that area had improved despite several isolated incidents. It was far from the catastrophe predicted by some when the Government had first requested the Mission’s withdrawal.
He reiterated the Government’s determination to fulfil all the commitments it had made to protect civilians, notably refugees and displaced persons, until their voluntary return home. To do that, it counted on the support of the international community in many forms, particularly the funding of the sustainability plan for DIS, which would ensure security in the Mission’s former zone of responsibility, alongside the Gendarmerie Nationale and the Garde Nationale et Nomade du Tchad. For 2011, the sustainability plan foresaw a function and logistics budget of some $20 million, well below the hundreds of millions of dollars required for MINURCAT every month, he said.
Emphasizing the strong cooperation between the Government and the United Nations, he said that while MINURCAT had not been as perfect as had been hoped, it had nevertheless played a positive role in protecting vulnerable people and humanitarian workers in a “special environment”. Tribute must be paid to the Mission and those who had contributed to it must be warmly thanked, as must the donors who had set up the trust fund to support DIS and other organs. Nothing would be possible in the future without their support, he said.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 3:37 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (document S/2010/611) which describes the humanitarian challenges that remain in the area of operation of the Mission as it prepares to shut down at the end of the year.
Established in 2007 to help protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid to thousands of people uprooted due to insecurity in the two countries and neighbouring Sudan, the Mission, known as MINURCAT, is being terminated at the request of the Government of Chad, which has pledged to take full responsibility for protecting civilians on its territory.
“The humanitarian needs in eastern Chad are immense,” the Secretary-General writes, noting that nearly 600,000 people depend on assistance from 70 humanitarian organizations. That number comprises 255,000 refugees from the conflict in the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan, more than 137,500 internally displaced persons, some 43,000 returnees and a host population of 150,000.
According to the report, the destruction of more than 104,000 hectares of crops during the rainy season renders vulnerable the population in southern, central and eastern Chad. Across the country’s Sahelian belt, an estimated 1.6 million people now face food insecurity and malnutrition, he adds, calling on donors urgently to provide resources to meet the needs of refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as support programmes to promote lasting solutions for them.
On the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General notes the recent attack by an armed opposition group in the Birao region, which led to the withdrawal of national security forces. He also expresses concern over the limited capacity of the security forces in Birao to fend off potential attacks on their positions now that MINURCAT has departed. He urges bilateral partners to respond positively to the request for assistance by the Government of the Central African Republic.
Stressing the unique nature of MINURCAT, a multidimensional presence with a maximum strength of 5,500 peacekeepers, the report states that it was devoted solely to helping protect civilians, without an explicit political mandate, and had tenuous host-Government consent since Chad repeatedly expressed a strong preference for a civilian international presence. In requesting its withdrawal, it notes, Chad pledged to take on responsibility for the protection of civilians through the use of its Détachement intégré de sécurité (DIS), an integrated unit that the United Nations has been helping to train and support. Unfortunately, MINURCAT is no longer in a position to verify the Government’s ability to protect civilians by visiting, for example, the majority of refugee camps and sites for internally displaced persons, or observing the performance of the national security institutions, including DIS.
The Secretary-General goes on to report that security in north-eastern Central African Republic remains “stable, yet fragile”, with the latest United Nations findings showing that the risks are attributable to a variety of governance issues — ethnic, economic and political. The Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) poses a threat there, he writes, pointing out, however, that the major sources of insecurity are banditry and transients with arms to sell. The most urgent threat stems from armed internal political opposition groups, especially the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), the one reported to have attacked Birao.
Listing the lessons learned from the Mission, the report stresses that, even when freely given, a host Government’s consent should be nurtured to ensure sustainability, since consent can be reversed. An operation such as MINURCAT, conceived and deployed under stress, can become hostage to pressures and contradictions that will distract it from its intended objectives, impair its overall performance and erode its credibility. The Mission suffered from the lack of a communications strategy, and was therefore unable to manage properly the expectations of the Government and, to some extent, those of humanitarian actors, thereby impairing its own ability to narrow the gap between expectations and reality.
At the same time, the Secretary-General credits the Mission with leaving behind a pool of skilled and trained national professionals whose experience with MINURCAT should benefit the country’s development. The deployment and conduct of operations in difficult, remote and landlocked areas such as eastern Chad and north-eastern Central African Republic is itself an achievement, he writes, recognizing that despite severe challenges, MINURCAT and DIS managed to provide a measure of security for refugees, internally displaced persons and humanitarian actors.
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