The Security Council on Wednesday authorized 5,200 U.N. peacekeepers to replace a 3,300-strong European Union force in Chad and Central African Republic, which have been seriously affected by fighting in neighboring Sudan's Darfur region.
The EU force has focused on helping to protect civilians, improve security, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to an estimated 500,000 people in eastern Chad and protecting a critical airport in northeastern Central African Republic.
The United Nations already has a mission in the two countries, comprising 863 people including 236 international police, 46 military liaison officers and experts in human rights, civil affairs and the rule of law. Its main focus has been selecting and training a new unit of Chad's police and military police to maintain law and order in refugee camps, key towns and areas with large numbers of displaced civilians.
The resolution adopted unanimously Wednesday extends the mandate for the U.N. Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad until March 15, 2010, and authorizes a new military component to take over from the European force on March 15 of this year. The expanded U.N. mission will include a maximum of 5,200 military personnel, 300 international police, 25 military liaison officers and "an appropriate number of civilians."
At the same time, the Security Council extended the mandate of "the multidimensional presence in Chad and military presence in the Central African Republic" for 12 months to ensure "an orderly" wrap-up of the EU's operations.
In a report to the Security Council last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that "on a day-to-day basis, attacks by heavily armed bandits pose the most immediate and constant threat to the civilian population and humanitarian operations" especially in eastern Chad which continues to face "an acute humanitarian challenge." More than 290,000 Sudanese refugees, over 180,000 internally displaced Chadians, and 700,000 Chadians living in the area need food, water and health care, he said.
"Until relative security can be assured, refugees and internally displaced persons are unlikely to return to their places of origin and will continue to depend heavily on external assistance," Ban said. "At the same time, however, the prevalence of attacks by heavily armed bandits targeting humanitarian workers continued to seriously undermine their capacity to reach people in need."
The secretary-general said countering these criminals, who use heavy weapons, requires military deterrence, not just policing.
"In cases where this does not succeed, militarily intervention is required," he said.
The mandate for the expanded U.N. mission authorizes the peacekeepers, under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter which is militarily enforceable, to "take all necessary measures" in eastern Chad "to contribute to protecting civilians in danger, particularly refugees and internally displaced persons," to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, and to protect U.N. staff and facilities.
It authorizes the U.N. force to establish a permanent military presence in Birao, in northeastern Central Afrcian Republic, "to contribute to the creation of a more secure environment," to undertake limited operations "to extract civilians and humanitarian workers in danger," and to protect U.N. staff and facilities.
The U.N. mission will continue to train the special Chadian police unit.
The EU and U.N. troops are supposed to complement the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, which has deployed about 60 percent of the 26,000 soldiers authorized by the Security Council.
Rebels took up arms in Sudan's western Darfur region in early 2003, citing neglect and marginalization by the central government. Attempts to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table or to broker cease-fires have failed, and so far up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes _ including into neighboring Chad and to a much lesser extent, the Central African Republic.