EU approves military force to Chad
A 3,500-strong European military contingent will soon be heading to Chad and the Central African Republic, as EU foreign ministers gave the final green light to the move on Monday (28 January).
Run by Irish commander General Pat Nash, the mission will provide the back-up for 300 UN police officers there in order to help protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.
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"In conducting this operation, the EU is stepping up its long-standing action in support of efforts to tackle the crisis in Darfur and to address its regional ramifications," EU foreign ministers said in a statement.
Monday's decision brought to a close months of political wrangling over the mission. Its launch was initially planned for October last year, but had been delayed several times due to foot-dragging by member states on contributing military equipment to the force.
The troops are now expected to be on the ground in March and mandated to stay for 12 months. The costs are expected to be around €119 million.
France will send the most soldiers, as the two African countries are both former colonies of the country. Paris has committed 1,500 troops to be added to the French military personnel already on the spot.
Ireland and Poland will provide 400 troops each, making them second largest contributors to the mission.
In total, 14 EU member states will contribute to the EU force, including Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
The ministers also urged the Chadian and the Sudanese governments to "abstain from any action that could further destabilise the current situation," as well as to "terminate support to armed groups operating in Eastern Chad or Darfur".
They referred to the recent attacks by rebel groups from Darfur in eastern Chad as well as the incursions of Chadian armed forces into Sudan.
According to the UN, roughly 200,000 civilians in Sudan's region of Darfur have been killed, with more than two million forced to flee their homes since 2003, when the violent conflict between the Arabic-speaking Islamist government in Khartoum and mostly Christian and animist black rebels started.
The conflict was fuelled by several factors - the scarcity of resources, tribal conflicts and a feeling among Darfurians of being marginalized and excluded from the profits of Sudan's oil.
In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the government in Khartoum and the rebels, but tensions continue to run high.