With conflict rife and peace in peril, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has called on member states of the European Union, especially France, to look re-examine their role in troubled Chad.
The move comes as China is put under more pressure to use its leverage with the Government of neighbouring Sudan to help resolve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
The aid agency, recognised by the Catholic Bishops in England and Wales, says that in recent weeks politically-motivated arrests and disappearances of civilians with the same ethnic identity as the rebels has brought “into serious question the unconditional support the international community and more directly France has given to Chadian President Idriss Deby.”
CAFOD says that the failure by the French Government and the European community to bring about a political solution to the crisis in Chad would have serious consequences not only for the civilian population in Chad but also for the stability of the region and for any hope of a resolution to the crisis in Darfur.
The EU External Relations Council yesterday called on “all Chadian parties to unconditionally renounce the use of force and engage in a constructive dialogue aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the current situation”.
It also reiterated its support for the “initiative taken by the African Union to engage the parties to end fighting and its efforts aimed at seeking a lasting solution to the crisis”.
CAFOD Humanitarian Policy Adviser Stephanie Brigden hit out at the Council, saying that Monday’s statement only “demonstrates how European Foreign Ministers continue to pay lip service to a so-called political process for Chad which is already dead in the water”.
An accord signed by Deby in August 2007 and underwritten by France and the US to hold new elections in 2009 carried little weight, she added.
"President Deby is using the current state of emergency in Chad to rid the country of legitimate opposition,” she said. “The EU’s continued commitment to the August Accord, when key partners to the agreement have been arrested and detained is at best naïve and at worst is a sign of support to a government committing serious violations of fundamental human rights."
CAFOD went on to warn that an EU force mandated to provide protection for civilians in Eastern Chad was not a panacea to the current crisis, and that a force made up largely of French troops may even make the situation worse.
“Rebel groups have said that they will regard the force as a belligerent party to the conflict,” the development agency says.
“CAFOD believes the EU should publicly counter claims made by the Chadian Government that the goal of EU forces is to protect President Deby’s regime otherwise there is every likelihood the neutrality of the force will be in question.
“This will put the civilian population at risk and could further jeopardise the ability of the international humanitarian community to provide aid.”