Submission to UN Security Council on the Situations in Chad and the Central African Republic
Submission to UN Security Council on the Situations in Chad and the Central African Republic
After the Crackdowns, is Chad’s Transition Unravelling?
After the Crackdowns, is Chad’s Transition Unravelling?
Open Letter / Africa 11 minutes

Submission to UN Security Council on the Situations in Chad and the Central African Republic


General Situation

The political and security crisis Chad faces has internal roots, and has been exacerbated rather than caused by the spillover of the Darfur conflict. Since 1990, power in N’Djamena has been monopolised by a Zaghawa military clan headed by President Idriss Déby, leading to increased political and social violence, ethnic tensions and bad economic governance. Neither the return to a multi-party system in 1990, nor the successive elections backed by Chad’s Western allies have brought democracy or prosperity.  

The political agreement, signed by the government and its unarmed opposition on 13 August 2007, is insufficient to end the internal crisis and the single-minded emphasis on implementing that agreement by the European Union (EU), and France in particular, must be reconsidered. The agreement focuses too narrowly on electoral reforms and does not provide a basis for the fundamental changes in governance required for sustainable peace and development in Chad. Similarly, the 2007 Syrte agreement does not offer a credible way out of the conflict between the government of Chad and its armed opposition, as was amply demonstrated by major rebel attacks on N’Djamena in early 2008. Cooptation of individual rebel leaders in lieu of real negotiation that tackles underlying grievances has not and will not lead to lasting improvement in the security and political situation.

Generally, President Déby has found a new lease of life by portraying himself as a key asset in the struggle to contain the government in Khartoum. In fact, both the Chadian and Sudanese regimes are fighting a proxy war through support to their respective armed adversaries and are exporting their own internal instability to the region.

Recent Developments

Positively, Sudan and Chad resumed diplomatic relations and exchanged ambassadors on 9 November. The rapprochement, mediated by Libya and the African Union, includes a commitment by both to stop support to their respective rebel groups and to deploy, by January 2009, a joint force along their common border to prevent rebel incursions. The force is projected to number about 2,000 soldiers, half Chadian and half Sudanese.

However, as the rainy season draws to a close, there are indications that both the Chadian government and its armed opposition are preparing for a new round of fighting. In late November, the main rebel movements met in the Sudanese town of El Geneina, across the border with Darfur, and, freshly re-equipped by the Government of Sudan, announced a new coalition, the Union des forces de la résistance (UFR).  It comprises the National Alliance (an initial coalition of dozen of rebel groups led by Mahamat Nouri), the Rassemblement des Forces du Changement (RFC) of Timane Erdimi and the Union of the Forces for Change and Democracy (UFCD) of Hadouma Assaballah Jedareb.  The new coalition has pledged to overthrow President Déby if he refuses to engage in a new round of comprehensive talks. On his part, Déby has rejected any form of dialogue not based on previous agreements reached in Syrte, Libya, and has placed the recently reorganized Chadian army on high alert.

The security situation in eastern Chad has improved only marginally despite the deployment of MINURCAT and EUFOR. Most recently, the UN Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that deteriorating security is threatening the lives of 26,000 IDPs and humanitarian actors have suspended all non-emergency operations in Dogdoré.

Recommendations to the Security Council

MINURCAT was originally established to train a Chadian gendarme force, the Détachement Intégré de Sécurité (DIS) — tasked to “create security conditions conducive to a voluntary, secure and sustainable return of refugees and displaced persons”— and contribute to the restoration of the rule of law in eastern Chad. The same resolution authorized the deployment of a European force (EUFOR) to provide a general security umbrella in areas of refugee and IDP concentration.

MINURCAT has faced tremendous difficulties, starting with a delayed deployment, largely due to the rebel attacks on N’Djamena and to a difficult cooperation with the Chadian government. As a result, MINURCAT is well behind on one of its core tasks – training the DIS. As of mid-November 2008, only 435 of a planned 850 DIS elements had completed training and started deploying. Additionally, the UN is training a force over which it exercises no executive authority and whose impartiality it cannot guarantee. DIS is run by a Déby-appointed command and, thus, could be transformed overnight from a protection to a fighting force – potentially making the UN a de facto party to the conflict.

MINURCAT and EUFOR have been further hampered by their operational mandates and capacities. Neither mission can deal with banditry, local government criminality or inter-ethnic clashes that are currently the greatest threats to civilians in eastern Chad. Similarly, they are not in a position either to prevent or stop border incursions, rebel recruitment, or weapons trafficking. While EUFOR officials claim that their mission has made civilians feel safer, through patrols and presence on the ground, EUFOR cannot arrest or detain criminals, or operate inside refugee camps if necessary.

Moreover, as the Secretary-General has outlined to the Council, MINURCAT and EUFOR are inadequately equipped and mandated to address the challenges of the Chadian crisis. Deployed in the absence of a credible political process, neither EUFOR nor MINURCAT, as it takes over from EUFOR on 15 March 2009, can resolve the security crisis in eastern Chad. Insecurity affecting civilians in eastern Chad is directly related to the country’s governance crisis, state collapse and absence of the rule of law. Unless and until these issues are properly addressed, effective protection of civilians will prove out of reach, even if MINURCAT’s military component is twice the size of EUFOR’s.

A three-track political process is needed to end the crisis and to protect civilians. A first track should build on the August 2007 agreement by launching a new political dialogue with broadened participation, including civil society. The dialogue should produce an accord on transparent national revenue sharing, decentralisation of state authority, security sector reform, judicial reforms, and restructuring of the state administration. A second negotiation track should focus on the armed rebellion and lead to a genuine, permanent ceasefire, the cantonment of rebel forces before their possible integration into the army and a joint verification mechanism. Rebel groups adhering to this process would have a right to participate in the political dialogue.  Under the supervision of the African Union, the third track should address the longstanding dispute between Chad and Sudan. MINURCAT should be closely involved in the first two tracks through a political mandate to support its development and subsequent implementation of any agreements. The creation of such a conflict resolution framework is the condition for successful peacekeeping in Chad and the most effective exit strategy for the UN mission.

In the meantime, current EUFOR contingents should be re-hatted into MINURCAT to avoid a security vacuum in the east. MINURCAT should be mandated to strengthen the rule of law in eastern Chad; continue to mentor the DIS contingent; independently investigate and report on human rights abuses; disarm, arrest and keep in remand criminals which would then be transferred to the Chadian judiciary; and create weapons-free zones in population centres outside the immediate vicinity of IDP and refugee camps. Its mandate should also expand MINURCAT’s area of operations to cover Wadi Fira, Ouaddai and Salamat if the evolving security situation so requires.

Therefore, a new resolution of the United Nations Security Council should:

Call for the appointment of a prominent African figure to serve as UN facilitator for a two-track national political process including the following:

  • A new political negotiation between the Government and the non-armed opposition, representatives of civil society, traditional chiefs and religious communities to broaden the agreement of 13 August 2007 to:
  1. demilitarisation and functioning of the state administration;
  2. redrawing of administrative boundaries and decentralisation;
  3. security sector reform
  4. disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of rebel combatants;
  5. judicial independence, including the status of the Supreme Court; and
  6. negotiation of a social pact on access to land and equitable distribution of resources, especially oil.
  • A new negotiation with the armed opposition on the basis of the Syrte agreement in order to obtain an enforceable ceasefire, which should:
  1. specify the positions of the armed groups and the Chadian army, assembly points in communities of origin and the cantonment of troops and combatants;
  2. create a joint military commission to monitor the agreement and discuss contentious issues; and
  3. invite participating rebel groups to the national political negotiations.
  • Adapt the mandate of MINURCAT to:
  1. take over from EUFOR, reinforcing the mission with a more significant civilian, police and military component to ensure improved protection of civilians, including through continued mentoring of the DIS contingent;
  2. disarm, arrest and keep in remand criminals, transfer them to the Chadian judiciary at an appropriate time, and assist in their prosecution and detention;
  3. support rule of law, engage in local conflict resolution, and independently monitor, investigate and report on human rights abuses committed in eastern Chad;
  4. create and maintain weapons-free zones in key population centres outside the immediate vicinity of IDP and refugee camps.
  5. support the national negotiations proposed above and their implementation; and
  6. monitor the implementation of a negotiated ceasefire, the cantonment of combatants and their subsequent disarmament or integration into the national army.
  • Demand that Sudan and Chad cease support to each other’s rebel groups, in accordance, most recently, with the Dakar agreement.

Central African Republic

General Situation

Since the coup d’état that brought President François Bozizé to power on 15 March 2003, the risk of renewed wider violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has never been greater than today. The opening of an inclusive political dialogue on 8 December – initially planned for June 2008 – has continued to be negotiated inch by inch, but both the regime and the main opposition forces see armed conflict as the ultimate way out of the crisis and are making preparations to return to it. Genuine democratization and state reform nevertheless seem possible if all sides can overcome that temptation and manage their differences in a consensual way, but the political dialogue needs to be refocused around organization of elections in 2010 and negotiation of a credible transitional justice mechanism. To avoid another round of violent regime change, the government should also complete reform of the security sector, including equitable integration of former rebels into the security services.

President Bozizé has more than ever been taken hostage by his close entourage of extremists and refuses to make concessions essential for true democracy. With the goal of ensuring his re-election in 2010, he is distorting the general amnesty he agreed upon with the rebel movements during the peace talks into a weapon of exclusion, at the same time as he grants impunity to his own forces that are guilty of serious abuses and tries to halt the proceedings of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which he himself originally requested in 2004.

With the exception of former Prime Minister Martin Ziguélé, whose authority over the most important opposition party (the Central African People’s Liberation Movement, MLPC) has waned due to an upheaval in its stronghold, and the unwavering but shadowy presence of former President Ange-Félix Patassé, Bozizé’s main adversaries want to transform the concept of political dialogue that was agreed in December 2006 into a mechanism to produce quick regime change. Their preferred vehicle would be a national conference, an ad hoc constitutional assembly competent to remove the head of state. At the very least, they count on being able to control a transitional government and to prepare the 2010 elections to their advantage.

The international community bears a share of responsibility for devaluation of the political dialogue. By initiating army reform in early 2008, the donors emptied the political dialogue of the security element that is at the heart of the crisis. They are paying the price today for their complacency about democracy in the CAR, including their readiness to give up on reconciliation in return for simple disarmament. Indeed, they are de facto abetting new insurrections by granting blank concessions to rebel leaders without demanding anything else from them except lip-service to legality.

Against this troubled background, the UN Security Council is scheduled to decide in December 2008 about the takeover of the European force deployed in Chad and the north east of the CAR. Whether the current lull in violence in the north of the country can be maintained depends on the nature of this decision. Budgetary limitations and the difficulty of finding troop contributing countries mean that the UN mission to the CAR and Chad (MINURCAT 2) will essentially concentrate on eastern Chad, to the point that it may have a purely symbolic presence in the CAR. France wants to turn over its responsibilities in Birao, so the job of securing the north east of the CAR would in effect fall to the new regional peacekeeping force, MICOPAX, that the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) has created but which needs strengthening.

In addition to the internal problems and international uncertainties, the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen. Despite the attention created by the neighbouring Darfur conflict and almost one million civilians affected by the violence in the north of the CAR, humanitarian assistance is not guaranteed: almost a quarter of the modest $116 million earmarked for the purpose is still missing. The CAR is at risk of yet again disappearing from the international radar screen, which would make all the investment of recent years in vain. Its emergency may seem less than those in Darfur, Chad or the Democratic Republic of Congo, but serious further deterioration is certain if the following measures are not taken:

  • The political dialogue needs to be refocused by its mediator, Gabon’s President Omar Bongo Ondimba. All political movements and notably all the former rebel groups that have turned themselves into parties, need to accept that its primary objective is to reach consensus on organisation of the 2010 elections. The dialogue must not be misused as a pretext to question the legitimacy of the current government in power; its intended purpose is to produce a responsible and fair process, not power sharing or regime change. Donors should emphasise to all sides that no solution to the political crisis is possible outside the existing legal framework and legitimate elections.                                                                       
  • The government should make it a priority to amend the amnesty law of October 2008 so as to facilitate the political dialogue without exceptions or conditions. Simultaneously, President Bongo should set creation of a credible transitional justice mechanism as a second key objective of that political dialogue, and donors should condition their support accordingly.
  • The international community should seek to maintain the presence of MINURCAT 2 in the CAR. However, if it is forced to reduce its deployment in the CAR, that UN contingent should harmonise and coordinate its withdrawal with a comparable reinforcement of the regional peacekeeping force (MICOPAX), so there are smooth handovers and transitions between them, as well as with the French forces that are being drawn down, and a coherent security approach is maintained toward the CAR.
  • The military planning law for 2009-2013 just submitted to parliament is an important step, but security sector reform has been begun many times in the CAR without ever being completed. The government needs to transform the security forces into “a structured, versatile, well-equipped and operational defence tool” attractive both to its own troops and the rebel fighters who are meant to be integrated with them. The international community should pledge strong support, financial in particular, but set the firm condition that the security forces must be depoliticised and the integration of rebel groups fairly managed.                
  • Donors should maintain their humanitarian aid for the victims of the conflict and ensure that financing is secured for the coming year.

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