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UN Secretary-General Due in Chad to Push for Peacekeepers

06 September 2007

While attention is focused on United Nations peacekeeper deployment in Sudan and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's visit there, analysts say getting peacekeepers into neighboring Chad is just as critical to stabilize the region. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's Central and West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

Ban Ki-moon is expected in Chad, Friday, to discuss getting U.N.-European Union peacekeepers into Chad to protect victims taking refuge in camps from fighting in Sudan, Chad and Central African Republic.

Chad President Idriss Deby had long resisted foreign peacekeepers in his country. He agreed only when the United Nations scaled back its peacekeeping role to that of administration.

EU forces, expected to come mostly from France, will patrol the troubled eastern border with Sudan, where the camps are located.

Francois Grignon, the Kenya-based director of International Crisis Group's Africa Programs, says Sudan may try to block deployment, saying foreign troops will only worsen tension from local conflicts.

After resisting earlier U.N. peacekeeping attempts, Sudan recently agreed to accept 26,000 United Nations and African Union peacekeepers to quell on-going violence from its four-year interethnic conflict.

Grignon says Sudan may leverage this force to block the peacekeeping operation in Chad.

"That is a way to basically blackmail, politically, the international community to say, if you deploy a hostile force, if you deploy foreign troops in Chad, we will not accept to go with what has been agreed upon in Darfur," he said.

Sudanese officials have questioned the necessity of foreign troops in Chad, calling the plan premature. They say the United Nations should have waited to see the impact of peacekeeping in Sudan.

But Mr. Ban's spokeswoman, Michelle Montas, says Sudan's leadership has not shown any signs of resistance to peacekeeping in Chad during the first part of the secretary general's visit.

"The reaction of the Sudanese government has been a very positive one and we have no reason to be worried or concerned," she said.

Aid workers have long called for more protection of Chad's camps. They say armed groups have recruited children living in the camps; looted surrounding communities; and raped women in and near the camps.

There are less than 250 Chad troops watching over about 400,000 Sudanese and Central African refugees and displaced Chadians, living in 12 camps in eastern and southern Chad.

Last month, the European Union sent a delegation to Chad to plan how many peacekeepers it will send, and to determine from which countries. The U.N. Security Council has given preliminary approval for the deployment.

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