The new French Ambassador to the UN has circulated a draft Security Council “statement” affirming the council’s readiness to approve an EU-led mission to protect refugee camps in Chad and the Central African Republic. (A “statement” is a non-binding expression of Security Council unity on a particular topic. It is typically of symbolic value, but in this case it will pave the way for a Security Council resolution sanctioning an international military operation in Chad and CAR.)
The French draft proposes an EU military force of some 3,000 deploy to refugee camps in eastern Chad and northern CAR, where an estimated 800,000 Darfuri refugees and internally displaced live. The deployment would be supported by a smaller number of UN police and Chad police.
It would not be an official peacekeeping mission, as the troops would be under EU command and not blue helmets. But — and here is the kicker — in all likelihood, if this proposal goes forward it will likely turn into a traditional peacekeeping operation when the original mandate expires in a year. When that happens, the international community better be ready to commit the financial resources to sustain yet another peacekeeping operation in the Greater Horn of Africa.
The proposed operation is part of a massive expansion of peacekeeping in the region. It would be the western-most outpost of a series of peacekeeping missions stretching to the Indian Ocean, including Darfur (if that gets off the ground), Southern Sudan, the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, and a UN supported AU force in Somalia. (The last time there was a similar cluster of peacekeeping operations was a decade ago, when UN peacekeepers were deployed to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cote D’Ivoire.)
Obviously, this presents huge challenges to the UN and its member states. Peacekeeping is already on the verge of a potential resource crunch. If the Security Council wants to replicate the success experienced in places like Sierra Leone and Liberia, wealthier member states must step up and back the new east African missions. The alternative would be letting conflicts continue to fester in the Horn of Africa.