Interviewed by FRANCE 24, Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, head of the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), raised the alarm on Chad’s recent decision to withdraw from the peacekeeping efforts in the country.
Speaking after his meeting with the Chadian defence minister, Mokoko said he regretted the decision, which he said leaves the UN-backed peacekeeping mission worryingly short on troops.
“We would have preferred that they [withdraw] in a manner that was convenient for us,” Mokoko told FRANCE 24. “But apparently the decision is irrevocable and immediate. As soon as they are able to quit Central African Republic, they will do so.”
Chad began withdrawing its 850 troops on Friday amid a dispute over clashes last weekend in the capital, Bangui, that left more than 30 civilians dead. The Chadian forces maintain they were returning fire, while a UN preliminary investigation has found they shot indiscriminately into a crowd of civilians.
The withdrawal of the Chadian soldiers will have consequences for the 6,000-strong mission, Mokoko said. “We have one unit less now,” he noted. “And I don’t have the time to find replacements for them on short notice.”
Chad evacuated thousands of Muslims
Moreover, the departure of Chadian soldiers could inflame the situation on the ground. “The Muslim population are worried and saw the Chadian contingent as their protectors,” Mokoko explained. "Their leaving, especially in the [central] region of Bossangoa, will be difficult for the Muslims.”
Forces from Chad, a predominantly Muslim country, have helped to evacuate tens of thousands of Muslims fleeing the violence in Central African Republic.
The UN Security Council is due to approve later this week a 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force for the former French colony, which will take over authority from African Union troops.
But the UN peacekeepers are not expected to arrive until September, stoking fears of a security vacuum as the country's interim government struggles to control intercommunal violence that has killed more than 2,000 people since December.
Date created : 2014-04-08