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Analysts Question Benefits of EU Deployment in Chad and CAR

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As European forces begin to deploy in Chad and the Central African Republic, analysts say they are worried about the logistics of the peacekeeping operation. They are also expressing concerns about the presence of the former colonial power, France. Jade Heilmann has more from our West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

Twenty soldiers left Austria heading for Chad, as the European Union slowly builds its 3,700-member peacekeeping force in Chad and the Central African Republic.

Rolake Akinola, an Africa analyst with the London-based group, Control Risks, believes this is one of the most ambitious peacekeeping missions ever in Africa.

The aim is to help secure the porous borders along Sudan's warring Darfur region, amid inter-communal fighting and massive displacements spilling from one country to the next.

"It will certainly help to preserve some level of stability and security especially from a solely humanitarian point of view. It could also serve as a measure of protection for refugees and people who have been displaced physically around that tri-border area. But also it might provide a much more conducive environment in which more substantial peace talks can take place," Akinola said.

Chad's army is also still fighting against Chadian rebels. Tuesday, Chad's air force said it had bombed a Chadian rebel base in the east of the country, near Sudan's border.

Both Chad and Sudan accuse each other of backing the rebellions they are fighting.

Akinola says the last few months have been characterized by a lack of commitment to genuine peace talks, as well as an increase in rebel group activity, and that has made negotiations very difficult.

Akinola says one main challenge facing the EU peacekeeping force could be a perception that it will be dominated by the interests of the former colonial power, France. French forces operating in Chad have been giving logistical assistance to its army.

With an expected 2,100 soldiers, France's army will make up more that half the EU forces being deployed. Poland and Ireland plan to send 400 soldiers each. In all 14 countries are involved.

Chadian rebel groups have already expressed their disapproval of the deployment, stating France is too close to President Idriss Deby. Akinola says that it is very important for France's role not to be overplayed.

"I think the honors would be on the people who are managing and commanding that force to make sure that France's presence does not actually overshadow the real task at hand, on the ground, which is protecting refugees and implementing the U.N. Security Council Resolution, and the mandate that has been given to them by the United Nations," she continued.

Since 2003, more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees are estimated to have fled into Chad. Violence within Chad has also forced the displacement of almost the same number of Chadians.

This operation is intended to increase the security of refugee camps and of re-location sites in order to facilitate humanitarian work. To do so, the European Union will aid 300 U.N. officers in the training of 850 local police officers who will overlook the security of the camps.

Paul Simon Hendy is an analyst for the South African based Institute for Security Studies. He believes a political plan to solve the situation is lacking.

"It is lacking because without solving the political problem which is at the basis of all the other problems in Chad, Sudan and the Central African Republic, you will not solve the roots of the problem," he said.

Hendy also believes not enough planning has gone into an exit strategy.

"Today nobody talks about these exit strategies, but the European force might be caught there, might be stuck in the Chadian desert, and this will certainly also have political consequences," continued Hendy.

EU officials have said the peacekeeping force will serve one year, and not a day more.

Meanwhile, there have been problems in deploying a hybrid U.N.-African Union force in Sudan. U.N. officials say deployment of all 26,000 peacekeepers is facing months of delays due to conditions set by Sudan, rejecting some of the planned non-African contingents.

 

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