A 3,700-strong EU force deploying in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) on Monday announced the official start of its year-long mission to protect displaced people. F24's Virginie Herz reports.
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An EU force of 3,700 troops still deploying in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) on Monday announced the official start of its year-long mission to protect refugees and displaced people.
"The means and units currently available have enabled the official declaration that Eufor Chad-CAR has reached 'initial operational capacity'," said a statement released in Chad by the European Union force.
"This declaration is an important step since its marks the effective start of the 12 months of the force's mandate," as provided for by a UN Security Council resolution passed on September 25 last year.
The mission's duty is to protect refugees in both countries from Sudan's conflict-wracked western Darfur region across their border, as well as Chadians and CAR villagers displaced by internal strife. They total more than 450,000 people.
Fourteen EU nations, led by France with 2,100 men, have offered troops and the force on the ground is commanded by French General Jean-Philippe Ganascia, who coordinates with a Eufor headquarters outside Paris headed by Irish General Pat Nash.
At present, about 1,700 men are deployed at the logistical headquarters in Chad's capital Ndjamena and in the east, where Eufor will be based in the main town of Abeche, as well as at Birao in the far northeast of the CAR.
Deployment was initially held up by difficulties raising the necessary ground and air power from EU nations, then delayed by a Chadian rebel assault on Ndjamena on February 2-3, which led to fierce fighting in the capital before a fractious alliance was repelled by government troops with French logistical support.
Ganascia in February said he still hoped to see the entire force deployed "by the end of May at the latest," when the rainy season is due to begin rendering unusable what tracks exist in the arid desert region.
Even before its mandate officially began, a French Eufor sergeant was fatally shot when his patrol vehicle accidentally crossed into Sudan and Sudanese forces "opened fire without warning", according to the French military.
Sudan last week said it wanted EU peacekeepers to pay tens of thousands of dollars in compensation for four nomads killed in the recovery of the body of dead French soldier when a grenade exploded.
On the Sudanese side of the border, a joint force of UN and African Union troops is supposed to deploy in Darfur to help keep the peace in a region where five years of civil war have claimed 200,000 lives and driven two million people from their homes, according to UN figures.
However, that mission has constantly been delayed.
On May 13, Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Beshir signed their sixth agreement in five years to cease hostilities and stop backing rebel groups active either side of the border.
That pact, sealed in Dakar on the sidelines of a summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was the outcome of strong international pressure on both leaders.
Date created : 2008-03-17