Tuesday

15th Jun 2021

EU mission in Chad ends amid tensions

  • Most of the non-French EU troops are to stay on as part of the UN mission to Chad (Photo: European Council)

The EU mission to Chad aimed at protecting refugees from Darfur has started preparations for the handover of its facilities to the incoming UN mission amid increased tensions as a result of the international arrest warrant against the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir.

EU defence ministers gathered in Prague on Thursday (12 March) discussed the mission, whose mandate ends on 15 March. EUFOR Chad was deployed last year to ensure the safety of refugee camps from the neighbouring northern-Sudanese region of Darfur until the UN mission is on the ground.

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The EU maintains that no security gap will occur since 2,000 of the current 3,360 EU troops will stay on the ground as part of the UN mission.

However, with 13 humanitarian organisations expelled from the Darfur region in northern Sudan and their relief efforts suspended, a massive afflux of refugees is expected into neighbouring Chad, where the EU troops are about to switch to an UN-led mission.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and US President Barack Obama on Wednesday called for aid groups to be allowed back in. "We have a potential crisis of even greater dimensions. It's not acceptable to put that many people's lives at risk."

The European Commission representative in Chad, Gilles Desesquelles, said Wednesday that the impact of the deteriorating situation in Darfur could be felt in "two to three weeks".

"For now, there is no direct impact on Chad. The indictment of President Bashir in front of the ICP [international court] has led the Sudanese president to expel humanitarian organisations. It is evident that this will cause major difficulty for the camp, refugees and that there is a possibility of a new exodus of refugees to Chad," he said.

Refugees still under threat

"Civilians in eastern Chad need as much protection as they did when the EU force was first deployed a year ago. The underlying security situation has not significantly improved even if part of the population feels safer," Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International's Brussels office told EUobserver.

"Crimes still go unpunished and banditry is a reality that thousands civilians face every day. Sexual violence is increasing and armed groups are free to recruit child soldiers, while inter-ethnic clashes have caused further deaths, left many injured and displaced," she added.

Oxfam also called on the EU to work with the African Union to appoint a high-level envoy to re-establish direct talks between the government and the main rebel groups.

On the same note, British MEP Geoffrey van Orden, member of the defence subcommittee in the EU legislature, told this website that the EU should focus rather on civil assistance as it is "not very good at military deployments."

"The Chad mission would have been more successful and would have had continuity had the UN taken a role from the beginning, instead of acceding to the EU's politically-driven request for military involvement," Mr van Orden said.

Russian helicopters

He criticised the slow deployment and the reliance on Russian helicopters "after no member state was willing to offer a capability essential to the mission."

"There is an appalling humanitarian and security situation in Chad. The EU has not managed the right response."

On the other hand, Irish centre-right MEP Colm Burke, who last year led a parliamentary mission to Chad, stressed the success of EUFOR in offering stability and setting up the necessary capabilities and structures for the UN mission.

"There was also real progress in setting up educational structures in the refugee camps so that children can have some education while there," he said.

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