UN/EU Midterm Review on Chad – A few thoughts
On September 12, the UN Secretary-General released the UN/EU midterm review of the UN and EU missions in Chad. A key finding of the review was the deterioration of the security situation in eastern Chad in the past six months. While the review notes that EUFOR’s presence was beginning to have a positive effect, the worsening security situation is troubling – especially given that EUFOR’s stated key objective was to provide a “safe and secure environment” in eastern Chad. Taken in the context of the rainy season, during which the levels of violence are considerably lower, this should be quite worrisome as the end of the season approaches. Thus it is ironic that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stated at Security Council session discussing the report, that “despite the triumphs of EUFOR, security problems remain”.
The recommendation: A post-EUFOR United Nations Force
Against this background, the Secretary-General recommends to the Security Council replacing EUFOR with a United Nations Force. However, different from previous reports (such as S/2006/1019), the Secretariat concluded that monitoring or securing the border between Chad, the Sudan, and the Central African Republic, would be a “virtually impossible task”.
Rather, the Secretary-General recommends replacing EUFOR with a UN follow-on-force similar in many respects to EUFOR. The UN force would be deployed under Chapter VII, and have the same objective, and probably mandate, as EUFOR – namely, protecting refugees/IDPs, facilitating the delivery of aid, and protecting UN personnel and property. The only meaningful difference would be that the UN force would only deploy in eastern Chad – to the exclusion of northeastern CAR.
The UN follow-on-force would be made of an infantry brigade (including four infantry battalions), of approximately 6,000 troops. This number, however, does not include the “over the horizon” capability, of approximately a battalion (likely around 1,000-1,500 troops given its tasks) deemed required to re-enforce the UN force should the need arise. Thus, the actual troop number proposed by the Secretary-General is closer to 7,000-7,500 troops – and thus almost double the size of EUFOR.
The risks of the proposal
The Secretary-General’s recommendation and the subsequent Security Council resolution 1834, which expresses the intention to authorize such a force in mid-December, will spark an intensive debate in the next weeks and months over at least three key challenges: finding sufficient well-trained and -equipped troops as well as high-value assets (e.g. helicopters); a realistic deployment framework and handover date from EUFOR to the UN follow-on-force and possible interim solutions; and whether the UN would be able to take over EUFOR’s facilities and infrastructure. All three are thorny, yet ultimately resolvable issues.
The risk however, is that these issues could eclipse the more fundamental question: in addressing the causes – and not just consequences – of suffering in eastern Chad, what is a UN force, under the current circumstances, realistically meant, or expected, to achieve?
The general insecurity and lawlessness in eastern Chad is caused by (1) state failure – that is, the effective absence of government; (2) an insurgency and counter-insurgency born out of a power struggle which has its roots in the failure of democratization in Chad; and (3) a proxy war between Chad and Sudan aiding both insurgency and counter-insurgency.
The proposed UN follow-on-force is however ill-equipped to tackle these three core causes of human suffering in eastern Chad. While the first can most effectively be addressed through long-term institution building (partly what MINURCAT is already attempting), the second and third require a political settlement between the conflicting parties. Thus, the proposed UN follow-on-force might be able to mitigate some of the consequences of these core causes, but not address them. Consequently, the proposed UN follow-on-force alone is by no means a solution to the security problems in eastern Chad, which would remain unsolved.
The Secretary-General himself warned of this in July when he said that “the mandates of MINURCAT and EUFOR limit the role of the two missions to addressing only the consequences and not the issues underlying the conflict in Chad”. He went on to argue, that unless fundamental issues are addressed, resources invested by the international community in Chad risk being wasted.
In the absence of a political solution to the problem, some might argue that deploying a UN force mitigating at least some of the consequences of insecurity in eastern Chad is the best alternative. This view however fails to recognize that in at least two ways, authorizing such a force without preconditions could actually reduce the chances of finding a solution to the causes of insecurity in eastern Chad.
First, authorizing a UN follow-on-force without putting any real pressure on the Government of Chad to seriously re-launch a credible peace process in Chad sends the wrong message to Chadian President Idriss Déby. The UN force comes to the benefit of President Déby, by carrying the brunt of the security burden in a large part of his country. Yet, the Security Council seems to trade the UN provision for the Chadian responsibility to protect the civilians on its territory, in exchange for toothless encouragements to the Chadian government to find political solutions (as in case of Resolution 1834). Once the force is authorized and deployed – at no cost to President Déby – the international community has little bargaining power vis-í -vis the Chadian government, and in fact puts itself at the mercy of Chadian threats to expel the force.
Second, authorizing a UN follow-on-force risks shifting international attention and resources from finding a viable political solution to the crisis in Chad and the greater region, to the more immediate challenges of finding sufficient troops and equipment, and subsequently on the gigantic logistical undertaking of deploying and sustaining a large military force in one of the poorest and most remote spots in Africa. As a result, finding a viable political solution to the crisis in Chad and the greater region could be relegated to the background – arguably already the case with the presence of EUFOR. The newly approved Resolution 1834 exhibits the first such signs.
Bjoern H. Seibert is a research affiliate at the Security Studies Program at MIT. As of October he will also be a visiting fellow at the Royal United Service Institute (RUSI). He is also the author of a military assessment on EUFOR Tchad/RCA published by MIT in November 2007. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org