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Analysis: Chad IDPs face homecoming hurdles

GOZ-BEIDA/N’DJAMENA, 9 August 2012 (IRIN) - Efforts to find “durable solutions” for many of the tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) in eastern Chad by the end of 2012 are being frustrated by poor conditions in IDPs’ home villages as well as by heavy rains.

The affected communities were mostly displaced in the eastern areas of Goz Beida (where there are some 60,000 IPDs), Koukou (20,000) and Farchana/Assoungha (8,000) between 2005 and 2009 by bouts of inter-ethnic violence, highway banditry, clashes between rebels and the army, and spill-over violence from the conflict in the neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan. (See here for more background)

“The official government policy in conjunction with UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] is that there will be no official IDPs by the end of 2012,” explained Pierre Peron, public information officer with the Chad branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“By then, IDPs will have will have either returned [home], relocated, or have been locally integrated,” he said.

These three options comprise the durable (or “sustainable”) solutions for IDPs set out in the Guiding Principles for Internal Displacement, a framework based on international law.

Such solutions are attained when “IDPs no longer have specific assistance and protection needs that are linked to their displacement”, according to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, a group of humanitarian policy formulators drawn from UN agencies and NGOs.

One of the main difficulties in Chad lies in meeting a key IASC criterion of “durable”, namely, “an adequate standard of living, including at a minimum shelter, health care, food, water and other means of survival.”

Honorine Sommet-Lange of the UNHCR’s Chad office told IRIN that the government had demonstrated the “political will” to find durable solutions.

While this will is reflected in Chad’s ratification of the 2009 African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, Sommet-Lange said it had “not been accompanied by recovery operations in eastern Chad.”

“In the villages of return, the security situation and returnees’ access to their fields are satisfactory. However, the returnees lack things like essential services: health centres, schools, water, and social infrastructure,” she added.

“Only a few humanitarian projects have been observed but they do not manage to meet the basic needs of the returnees,” she said.

This view is shared by the head of the Goz Beida office of the national commission dealing with IDPs and refugees (CNARR).

“These people [IDPs] have got used to food, schools and assistance [in the camps] that do not exist in the villages of return,” Saudi Hassan told IRIN.

Hassan explained that while many IDPs were currently entitled to one-off reintegration packages, after this year “there will be no government assistance for IDPs. They will be called ‘reintegrated people.’”

Local integration, according to Sommet-Lange, is the preferred option for the IDPs in Koukou, where officials are working on housing schemes and, like officials in Farchana, have provided plots of habitable land.

But there have still been no “clear directives” from the government to facilitate local integration in Goz Beida, where almost 60,000 IDPs expressed a preference for this option.

Since February 2012, some 1,912 IPDs in Goz Beida have been helped to return to their villages of origin by UNHCR and CNARR. Another 1,000 who also want to go back must wait because the current rainy season has made roads impassable.

In Koukou and Farchana, almost 2,000 and 30,000 people have gone home respectively since 2008, for the most part unaided. No more such returns are expected in Koukou, with all remaining IDPs wishing to integrate locally.

Financial constraints

Lack of money appears to be the main barrier between will and action.

The government “has set up a Multi-Sector Recovery Programme for Eastern Chad (Programme Global de relance de l’Est du Tchad, PGRET),” explained Sebastian Albuja, who heads the Africa and Americas department of the International Displacement Monitoring Centre an advocacy project of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“However, the programme, which was launched to assist people affected by humanitarian crisis in eastern Chad by providing sustainable solutions to their security and socio-economic challenges, has been severely underfunded and unable to deliver on its objectives,” he added.

In humanitarian jargon, the tasks involved in making return a durable solution - which include providing basic services, as well as strengthening governance and rule of law - fall under the spheres of “Protection” and “Early Recovery”.

But these spheres, or “clusters”, had, by July 2012, received just 15 and 7 percent of their respective funding sought in the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP).

“Such current underfunding is concerning, as support from the international community is fundamental to help IDPs find durable solutions in the near future,” said IDMC’s Albuja.

Looking beyond Early Recovery, reaching durable solutions is also frustrated by a lack of “development actors to implement medium-to-longer-term development projects,” according to Chad’s 2012 CAP.

Other impediments include “price inflation and the degradation of the environment (deforestation, over-exploitation of groundwater and pressure on scarce natural resources). Survival strategies of host communities [in areas of local reintegration] are often dependent on climate conditions, with frequent natural disasters such as floods and droughts that greatly affect their vulnerability,” the document said.

“A lot of people are saying that we are in transition from emergency to development, from saving lives to sustainable solutions. At present the challenge for humanitarian actors and development agencies is to coordinate a smooth transition without creating a gap in the response to people's needs,” said OCHA’s Peron.


Banditry and the proliferation of small arms remain serious security threats and humanitarian organizations often still need escorts from the UN-supported Chadian security force, Détachement Intégré de Sécurité (DIS), in eastern Chad, according to a March analysis by the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS), a consortium of three NGOs (HelpAge International, Merlin and Norwegian Refugee Council).

Unexploded ordnance in the north and east as well as the proliferation of small arms among civilians also continues to threaten security and affects the delivery of humanitarian aid in the eastern Dar Sila, Ouaddai, and Wadi Fira regions there, added the analysis.

Chad’s government assumed full responsibility for the protection of civilians and the safety and security of humanitarian actors in the east after the 2010 withdrawal of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad (MINURCAT). The security there now include the DIS, the national police and gendarmerie, as well the joint Chad-Sudan border force, which was deployed there in April 2010.

While security has been boosted in the east, criminal activity is shifting westwards, with carjacking and kidnapping incidents occurring around the Abéché-Ati-N’Djamena axis, added the ACAPS analysis.

Regional instability

There has been relatively little internal armed conflict in eastern Chad since 2010. But significant instability persists in Darfur and the Central African Republic, where the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan insurgency notorious for its brutality against and abduction of civilians, has fighters who, according to Albuja, might move north across the porous Chadian border.

In a 2011 report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned that “there are serious risks that the rise of trans-Sahara drug trafficking and terrorism, emergence of radical Muslim movements in neighbouring countries, development of inter-communal violence, decline of local traditional justice systems and lack of state governance will destabilise” Chad’s northwest.

“Authorities in N’Djamena need to move to change the governance system there and defuse the multiple roots of potential conflict before a crisis explodes,” the report added.

Northwest Chad has, according to the ICG, “historically played an ambivalent but pivotal role between the Arab-Islamic culture of North Africa and the sub-Saharan African cultures with its strategic position presently making it increasingly the target of infiltration attempts by armed groups and criminal networks that take advantage of the no man’s-land areas of the Sahara Desert to expand their activities.”


Copyright © IRIN 2012
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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