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Aid Workers Face Challenges With Approval of UN Peacekeepers Along Chad-CAR Border

Humanitarian workers in eastern Chad say they face new challenges now that the U.N. Security Council has approved a peacekeeping force along Chad's and Central African Republic's borders with Sudan. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West and Central African Bureau in Dakar.

The U.N. Security Council has approved sending 3,000 European peacekeepers to Chad and Central African Republic to protect a dozen camps with more than 400,000 victims of fighting between rebels and the governments of Sudan, Chad and Central African Republic.

But the planned deployment of the peace force has raised fears among humanitarian organizations. They worry their workers may be confused with the mostly French peacekeepers.

In the past, France has supported Chad's President Idriss Deby in clashes with rebel forces.

Kemoral Jadjombaye, a spokesman for the U.N.'s Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Assistance in eastern Chad, says it can be dangerous for humanitarian workers if they are confused with peacekeepers seen as supporting Chad's government.

He says the European Union humanitarian group ECHO, which is providing health care, education and other services in the camps, carries the same logo as the EU peacekeepers.

He says if the new troops are seen as supporting Chadian government forces, humanitarian workers may be caught up in the cross-fire between rebels and the new peacekeepers.

Rebel leaders have vowed to attack if the new peacekeepers support Chad's military against the rebels.

Rebel leader Amine Ben Barka is one of the negotiators in peace talks with Chad's government. He says until there is a peace deal, the rebels are ready to respond militarily if there are the signs the new peacekeepers side with Mr. Deby.

In addition to being confused with peacekeepers, the U.N.'s Jadjombaye is worried that humanitarian groups will find it more difficult to get food and water to the camps once the peacekeepers arrive.

He says he is worried the new peacekeepers will crowd air traffic. He says there are a limited number of landing strips for propeller planes and so it is already difficult to fly in humanitarian supplies.

Paul Simon Handy is a Pretoria-based analyst with the South African Institute for Security Studies. He says the new force is needed to help stabilize the region, but it alone cannot solve the political problems faced by the three governments.

"I do not think this mission will address the core issues," said Handy. "It might address the humanitarian problems, but the humanitarian problems are just a manifestation of a more profound crisis."

Rebels in the three countries, complaining of government neglect and abuse, have taken up arms to gain more power. Leaders of the countries are in various stages of peace negotiations with armed opposition groups.

The U.N.-EU troop deployment to Chad and CAR comes as world leaders push for the already approved, but not yet deployed 26,000 U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.

U.N. officials estimate fighting that broke out four years ago in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 and scattered more than two million throughout the region.