Ban Ki Moon, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, warns that the humanitarian challenges are immense and might raise [in]security issues in Chad and Central African Republic (CAR).
This is after MINURCAT is being terminated at the request of the Chadian Government. MINURCAT was set up by the UN Security Council in 2007 to help protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid to thousands of people who were displaced due to insecurities in the two countries and neighboring Sudan. It has a multi-dimensional presence and has a maximum strength of 5,500 peacekeepers, without an explicit political mandate, and had tenuous host-Government consent since Chad repeatedly expressed a strong preference that any international presence be civilian in nature. Now the government of Chad pledged full responsibility for protecting civilians on its territory.
Lives on the verge of immense insecurity
In his latest report to the UN Security Council on the mission, Ban writes that the humanitarian needs in eastern Chad are immense. He stressed that nearly 600,000 people depend on assistance from 70 humanitarian organizations. There are 255,000 refugees from the conflict in the Darfur region of neighboring Sudan, more than 137,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs), some 43,000 returnees, and a host population of 150,000.
“The destruction of more than 104,000 hectares of crops during the rainy season rendered the population vulnerable in southern, central and eastern Chad,” Ban said. “Across the Sahelian belt in Chad, an estimated 1.6 million people now face food insecurity and malnutrition.”
Ban called on donors to urgently provide resources to meet the needs of refugees and IDPs and support programs to promote durable solutions for them.
A host of flies
He also cites the recent attack by an armed opposition group in the Birao region in CAR. The attack led to the withdrawal of national security forces.
“I am concerned by the limited capacity of the security forces in Birao to fend off potential attacks on their positions now that MINURCAT has departed,” he writes, urging bilateral partners to respond positively to the Government’s request for assistance.
Ban is concerned with the Mission’s operations winding down. He worries that it would become much more difficult to monitor and verify CAR’s progress towards attaining the benchmarks set by the UN Security Council to protect civilians.
“The Mission is no longer in a position to visit the majority of refugee camps and sites for internally displaced persons or to observe the performance of the national security institutions, including DIS, providing protection for civilians,” he said.
UN’s latest findings show that the fragile nature of CAR’s security rests on a variety of issues. Although the northeastern region remains stable, its fragility is attributed to ethnic, economic, and political risks.
“The major source of insecurity comes from banditry and transients who bring arms to sell, but the most urgent threat stems from armed internal political opposition groups – especially the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP),” Ban said.
Learning from the MINURCAT mission
Ban highlights lessons learned from the MINURCAT mission. He said that once a host government gives its consent, such should be nurtured to ensure sustainability. This is especially true when country and sub-region conditions change significantly.
“An operation such as MINURCAT, conceived and deployed under stress, in disregard of the foregoing observations, can become hostage to pressures and contradictions that will distract it from its intended objectives, impair its overall performance and erode its credibility,” he said.
Also, the mission is not foolproof. It suffered from lack of communications strategy and was unable to manage government expectations. To some extent, the mission was also unable to manage humanitarian actors, thus, impairing its ability to narrow gaps between expectations and reality.
However, Ban also credits the mission as it leaves behind a pool of skilled and trained national professionals who worked with MINURCAT. Ban hopes that this would benefit the development of the country.
“The deployment and conduct of operations in difficult, remote and landlocked areas such as eastern Chad and the north-eastern area of the Central African Republic is itself an achievement,” he adds.