The deployment of an EU peacekeeping mission to the eastern Chadian region of Darfur was resumed on Tuesday (12 February) after being suspended due to fierce fighting in the capital N’Djamena.
Deployment was resumed with the landing in Abéché of a plane carrying equipment, according to a statement by EUFOR, the EU peacekeeping mission, which said more shipments would follow “in the coming days”.
EUFOR has already sent 150 soldiers to Chad but further deployments have been delayed due to severe fighting between rebels and government forces in the capital, N’Djamena, and across the country (EURACTIV 4/02/07).
The EU force will be made up of 3,700 soldiers, including 2,100 French troops, when fully deployed. But this heavy French presence has raised concerns within some EU member states, which have expressed concern that EUFOR will not be a neutral force in the conflict, according to Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organisation.
Oil-rich Chad has had a violent and troubled history since its independence from French colonial rule in 1960.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner hailed the resumption of the EU mission, saying he hoped the deployment would be completed “in the coming days, coming weeks, to the end of the month or the beginning of March,” according to AFP.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch urged the EU to move on rapidly with deployment. “Nowhere is the need for EUFOR more urgent than in the Guéréda area of eastern Chad, where 12,000 Sudanese refugees have been living in desperate conditions since February 10,” said Georgette Gagnon, acting Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The European Union is mandated to protect these refugees, but it needs to deploy its troops to Chad immediately.”
“EUFOR is a European force operating under a UN mandate, and it is not supposed to take sides,” said Gagnon. “Troop commitments from a broader range of EU members would help provide EUFOR with the support it needs to protect civilians.”
EUFOR was mandated by the UN Security Council to provide protection for more than 400,000 Sudanese refugees and Chadian internally-displaced persons in eastern Chad.