Chad calls for UN troops to withdraw

Friday, January 29, 2010

Diplomats have said that Chad called on the United Nations' peacekeeping force to withdraw its civilians and soldiers from the country, and wants a timetable for the withdrawal.

"There is a [Chadian] political imperative for a withdrawal. It doesn't matter how long it takes, it will be a withdrawal," said an unnamed diplomat to the Reuters news agency; diplomats say that the deployment of UN personnel was never fully accepted by the government, and that Chadian president Idriss Deby views their presence as an encroachment on their sovereign territory.

The UN has sent out a high-level team to Chad, for talks, although diplomats noted there wasn't any scope to renegotiate the organisation's mandate, which is due to expire on March 15. Chadian authorities said they had asked the UN not to renew the mandate. Some concerns have been raised that aid agencies would not be able to operate in Chad should the withdrawal take place.

There is no question of that [changing the mandate]. The Chadians are demanding a calendar for the retreat. It will not be long.

—Anonymous diplomat

"There is no question of that [changing the mandate]. The Chadians are demanding a calendar for the retreat. It will not be long," said another diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous.

The UN is mandated to have approximately 5,000 soldiers in Chad, although at the moment there are only 3,000, as the force is still deploying; it took over the peacekeeping role in the country from the European Union in 2009. Human rights groups say that about 200,000 refugees from Darfur in neighbouring Sudan are in the eastern part of the country, where they have faced violence from fighters. The UN was tasked with protecting those refugees.

UN peacekeeping forces are also present in the northern Central African Republic (CAR), as civilians there came under violence from local rebellions, as well as the larger regional conflict. According to a diplomat, the UN would have to withdraw from the CAR if it pulled out of Chad. "The UN can't operate in a country that doesn't want them. But it also means a withdrawal from CAR," he noted.