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At UN, Chad's Attempt to Re-Rent Peacekeepers' Air Strips Covered Up in Council

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, February 14 -- Chad's government, led by Idriss Deby, attempted to reclaim air strips built in the country by European Union peacekeepers and then rent them for profit to the incoming United Nations force, sources tell Inner City Press. The UN Security Council met on February 13 about the peacekeeping mission, known as MINURCAT. Afterwards, this month's Council president Yukio Takasu told the Press that an air strip issue, which he did not explain, had been resolved just before the meeting. 

   Afterwards, several Council Ambassadors speaking to Inner City Press on condition of anonymity said they were disgusted that a government like Deby's, which took power by a coup d'etat and has since at least twice been saved from overthrow by French military intervention, would try to make money off peacekeeping mission which indirectly also keep Deby in power. They confirmed that Deby's play was to lay claim to the infrastructure improvement built by the EUFOR peacekeepers, sent in response to reported refugee flows from Darfur, and then re-rent it at a profit to the UN.

  Inner City Press in  late 2008 reported exclusively that  landing fees Deby's Chad was imposing had grounded the peacekeeping force, click here for that.

  The impending hand-over of the Chad and Central African Republic mission from the European Union to the UN already faces problems. Poland, the second largest troop contributor, is considering pulling back its 400 soldiers before they would be "re-hatted" as UN peacekeepers. Inner City Press asked Ambassador Takasu if this prospective Polish pull-out had been discussed.  Takasu said that troop levels were discussed, but not Poland by name.

The author on Chadian airstrip in mid-2008, landing fees and re-rental try not shown (c) M.Lee

  A source in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations tried explaining to Inner City Press the statements from Poland as part of a re-organization of the Polish military, and not any criticism of UN Peacekeeping as such. Some surmise that as the global financial crisis spread, some countries may reduce their level of contributions to the UN, including troops and police. They get reimbursed for these, and developing countries use UN Peacekeeping missions to make money. Salaries are paid not to the peacekeepers but to their countries, which pocket a percentage of the money.

   But Chad's attempted extortion, as the host of a peacekeeping mission which helps keep its president in power, is a new low, Inner City Press as told by disgruntled Council Ambassadors. Watch this site.

Footnotes: when the Security Council members visited Chad in mid-2008, Deby declined to meet with them. While France's Ambassador told the Press it was because Deby was not in the country, it was known Deby had already returned earlier from Libya. Inner City Press and others on the trip asked France's Permanent Representative to the UN to explain the discrepancy, which has led to tensions.

  France's support for Deby's regime, despite it human rights violations including recruiting child soldiers, calls into question much of what France says at the UN and in the Council, Ambassadors told Inner City Press on Friday, describing France's strained congratulations of Deby for backing-down on his extortion play. [In fairness, France's Permanent Representative is traveling and was not in Friday's meeting] When asked for France's position on the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka and putting it on the Security Council's agenda or at least getting a briefing, the response Thursday was that France's position wasn't known.

In memoriam -- we are compelled to note, and mourn, the death of Africa expert Alison Des Forges, who was killed in the crash of Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo on February 12. Her reports on the region helped many civilians. She will be missed.

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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