No miracle security solution in Chad
Creating secure conditions instead of placing a soldier in each convoy is the way to go in protecting aid workers in Chad, says EU's Solana.8 May 2008
ABECHE - EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told grieving aid workers in Abeche Wednesday there was "no miracle" solution to their security, after the killing of a French colleague last week.
Solana arrived in Chad from Central African Republic as part of a visit to inspect EU forces (EUFOR) and aid workers protecting Sudanese refugees from nearby Darfur.
All 30 or so aid workers wore black armbands at the Abeche meeting with Solana as a mark of respect for their murdered colleague, French aid worker Pascal Marlinge, who was shot in an ambush last Thursday. Marlinge worked for the group Save the Children.
"We must improve security," Solana said, but he warned: "There are no miracles, the situation is difficult."
"Cooperation (from the government of Chad) with the EUFOR is total," Solana added.
Solana was harangued by some aid workers demanding better security, some of whom requested military guards to protect them on field work.
"The idea is not to put a soldier in each convoy, but to create secure conditions," Solana told them. "We cannot be in all places at once."
Before flying to Abeche, Solana earlier met in Ndjamena, the Chadian capital, with Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki, representatives of the UN Office Coordinating Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Solana is in the region principally to visit EU troops (EUFOR) operating in Chad and Central African Republic to protect displaced refugees from the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan.
However, even if the EUFOR Chad-CAR mission manages to improve security conditions, it will not be fully operational until June, and its mission only last until March 2009.
But Solana stressed "the mandate will not change, it will not go beyond March 2009".
"President Deby has acknowledged that Chad needs to work with the UN (after EUFOR's departure) in one way or another, but without going further than that," Solana added.
Chad's restive eastern region borders Sudan's vast and warring Darfur region, where refugee camps have also been set up to shelter displaced victims.
Solana then travelled on to Goz Beida, about 200 km south-east of Abeche, to meet Irish soldiers from EUFOR and visit a Sudanese refugee camp and a site for displaced Chadians.
International aid organisations travelling within Chad are often targets of armed bandits wanting to snatch their all-terrain vehicles.
In response to growing security risks throughout eastern Chad, UN agencies and NGOs suspended their humanitarian activities last Friday and Saturday.
This was in protest at "the deterioration of security in the east of the country after this murder," they explained.
"We must stop the actions of armed groups, perhaps with more patrols, presence or more means from EUFOR or Chadian government forces," Benoit Piot, an NGO representative, suggested.
"Since January, three humanitarian workers and two Chadian refugee camp guards have died," he added, urging the security problem must be solved.
He said however that "an overnight solution" was impossible.
Chad's leader Idriss Deby Itno was almost overthrown by armed rebels in early February.
Since then he has invited several opposition members into his coalition government.
[AFP / Expatica]