In its latest report published on 18 October 2007, the UNHCR revealed that the refugee population in Eastern Chad had grown to 233 000 as of 30th September 2007 (133 000 female, 100 000 male). This represents an increase of 15 000 people compared to the same time last year. Camps at Oure-Cassoni and Bredjing continue to be the largest in the region, each hosting up to 30 000 refugees and IDPs.
In the south of Chad, after a significant drop in March 2007, the refugee population has begun to increase and is currently at 43 647 people.
In the Dosseyo refugee camp allegations of witchcraft have led to increasing distrust and rejection of the Peul ethnic group. Peul people, who are fleeing conflict in the Central African Republic, recognize both the existence of witches and the role of the traditional healer and exorcist. Trouble began after 11 refugees fell ill and died within a week. Many have accused the Peul of witchcract and blamed them for the deaths. The camp contains 5 500 Central African refugees, two thirds of whom are ethnic Peul.
On 25 September 2007, the UN Security Council Resolution 1778 approved the establishment of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) and the deployment of European Union troops with a robust mandate to protect and support the UN mission. MINURCAT, with an initial deployment of 300 police and 50 military liaison officers, would help monitor the human rights situation in the region, assist both countries in promoting the rule of law, support elements of the Chadian police and liaise with other actors in the region to assist refugees and to counter threats to humanitarian activities. The 4,000-strong European Union operation, mandated under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, will be authorized to take “all necessary measures” to help protect civilians in danger, to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid and to help provide UN personnel with protection and freedom of movement. Both missions have been mandated for an initial period of one year.
On 15 October, the EU approved the creation of EUROFOR-CHAD/CAR. It is expected that the European force will be start deploying early November and will be partially operational by mid-November. The operational commander of the force will be Irish General Pat Nash and its force commander will be French Brigadier Jean-Philippe Ganascia. Although the exact make up of the force is not yet known, it appears that France will constitute at least half of the force (by re-helmeting its existing troops in Chad and CAR), with additional troops from Sweden, Poland and Belgium.
While the French military holds significant expertise in the region, France’s unconditional support for the CAR and Chad Governments and armed forces whilst they were committing serious human rights abuses makes it wholly inappropriate for the EU and UN to mandate France’s continued presence in the region. It is imperative that the troops operating in Chad and the CAR be neutral and impartial and French troops are very much seen as belligerents by rebels groups both in Chad and the CAR.
The EU must therefore develop a peacekeeping capacity that is not reliant on the UK or France by utilising the capabilities of other members who have expressed an interest in engaging in Central Africa in recent years. Furthermore France should pull out its troops from the CAR and provide logistical and financial assistance as well as its expertise to the new EU force. The joint EU-UN force must also secure the northwestern part of the CAR, where widespread human rights abuses are currently taking place.
Human Rights Situation
On18 October 2007, Chadian rebels attacked government troops in the eastern town of Goz Beida. Fighting broke out after the military attempted to disarm former rebels of the United Front for Democratic Change (FUC) as part of the integration of the group into the army. Government sources estimate that a dozen rebel fighters and one Government soldier were killed. No independent sources have confirmed these reports.
Two days before the violence in Goz Beida, President Deby had called a State of Emergency in parts of Chad. The decree which was intended to last for 12 days applies to the towns of Ouaddai and Wadi-Fira in eastern Chad and to the region of Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti (BET) in the north of Chad. It limits the movement of people and vehicles, freedom of assembly and of media as well as giving local authorities 24 hour search and arrest powers. A previous State of Emergency declared in Abeche after a rebel attack lasted from November 2006 until May 2007.
Also on 16 October, under the order of the Governor of Ouaddai a 18: 30 curfew was enacted in the city of Abeche. Abeche is the principle centre of operations for the majority of humanitarian organizations present in the east of Chad.
On 26 October 2007 Chad’s parliament voted to extend the State of Emergency for a further 45 days.
On 26 October, nine French citizens and seven Spanish crew members were arrested and 103 children taken into the custody of Chadian social services after an alleged child trafficking scandal. The 103 children, allegedly orphans, were being taken to France by a charity called Zoe’s Ark. The charity seeks to provide a home with French families for orphans whose lives have been destroyed by the Darfur conflict. However Chadian authorities say the children were not orphans and that many of them were in good health. Furthermore Chad does not allow international adoption and authorities say no official authorisation was given to the French charity.
On 25 October a “definitive peace accord” was signed by Chad’s government and four Sudan-based Chadian rebel groups. Negotiations for the peace deal took place in Libya in the presence of Adriss Deby, Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Muammar Gaddafi. The rebel groups involved were the Union of Forces of Democracy and Development (UFDD) led by Mahamat Nauri, the Assembly of Forces of Change (RFC) led by Timon Erdimi, the Chadian National Concord and the UFDD- Fundamental Faction.
The peace deal includes an immediate ceasefire, the release of a limited number of prisoners and the integration of members of the rebel groups into Chadian state structures.