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Africa

UN votes to withdraw Chad force by year's end

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-25

The UN Security Council has agreed to withdraw a UN peacekeeping mission from Chad and the Central African Republic before the end of the year, in a move NGOs fear could put civilian populations in the region at risk.

AFP- The UN Security Council voted Tuesday to withdraw a UN force from Chad and the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) despite concern about the protection of civilians in the region.
   
The 15-member body ordered the withdrawal, which was requested by Chad, to be completed by the end of the year.
   
But it also took note of commitments by the Ndjamena government "to assume full responsibility for the security and the protection of the civilian population in eastern Chad" where there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Chadians and refugees from Sudan's Darfur region.
   
Amnesty International warned the move could leave large numbers of "vulnerable" people at risk.
   
The resolution, adopted unanimously, initially cuts the military component of the UN mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) from 3,300 to 2,200 troops (1,900 in Chad and 300 in CAR) and 25 liaison officers.
   
It directed UN chief Ban Ki-moon to make the first cut by July 15 and to start the withdrawal of the remaining troops on October 15.
   
The resolution called on Ban to complete the pullout of all UN forces "other than those required for the mission's liquidation", by December 31.
   
And it extended the mandate of MINURCAT, which expires Wednesday, to December 31.
   
Ban welcomed the resolution, under which the Chadian government assumes full  responsibility for protecting civilians "under international norms".
   
He said the new mandate will allow MINURCAT's civilian component to work with authorities "to consolidate gains achieved so far and help it to develop plans for their sustainability" after December 31.
   
The UN force, which currently also includes 1,075 civilians, was created in 2007 to protect hundreds of thousands of refugees from Darfur and displaced Chadians.
   
It never reached its planned full contingent of 5,200 peacekeepers, including 4,900 in Chad.
   
From 2009, the UN force took over from a European Union peacekeeping force.
   
But the Chadian government of President Idriss Deby wants the UN mission terminated by the end of the year, while UN relief coordinator John Holmes said recently that the force would leave the country within months.
   
Deby has criticized the UN mission as "a failure," and accused the troops of remaining behind the safety of their razor-wire fences and not venturing out to help refugees.
   
Last month, Amnesty International appealed for the peacekeepers to remain in Chad, after a recent spate of bloodshed in the east of the landlocked central African country.
   
And UN agencies have warned hat the planned departure of the peacekeepers could leave a security vacuum in eastern Chad, where humanitarian workers face constant attacks by bandits.
   
"This is not the time for the Chadian government to pull the plug on MINURCAT and the Security Council should stand up for the vulnerable women, men and young people living in the region," Amnesty said in a statement earlier Tuesday.
   
"It is wholly unacceptable that this resolution is taking place before the Chadian government has shown it has a concrete plan to provide security, and it is deeply disturbing that those whose rights are on the line have essentially been cut out of the debate," said Amnesty's Africa director, Erwin van der Borght.

Date created : 2010-05-25

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