Chad: Welcome To Hell, All Donations Eagerly Accepted


December 6,2008: Since the 3,700 EU peacekeepers can only cover about half the refugee camps in eastern Chad (containing nearly half a million Sudanese and Chadian refugees), the bandits have figured out which camps are vulnerable, and concentrated on looting and robbing in those areas. NGOs are prime targets, and some of these medical and food relief operations have been shut down until government or EU forces can move in to make it temporarily safe. So far this year, there have been 10-20 attacks on NGO personnel a month.  The UN is calling for an UN force of 6,000 peacekeepers to replace the EU troops, but no one is eager to send their soldiers to such a remote and hostile place.

The biggest problem any peacekeepers face is the gangs of bandits and Darfur rebels who live off the camps. There are dozens of these groups, and some of them contain a hundred or more armed men. The principal Darfur rebel group, JEM, often keeps family members in Chad refugee camps, and think nothing of coming by, gun in hand, for a visit. This is a true frontier area, beyond the law, and full of characters, carrying guns and willing to kill if pushed. JEM, and the bandits, also recruit in the camps. For a teenage guy, the prospect of getting a gun, and with it the license to kill and steal, is appealing. The risks are ignored by many people that age, and that makes the recruiters job a lot easier.

Chad and Sudan are now at peace, so there are no major military operations along the border. But it's a big border, and any peacekeepers in Eastern Chad are but a few ink spots on a huge canvas (over 300,000 square kilometers) that is the border region with Sudan. The 1,500 kilometer long frontier is mostly desert and brush, with the refugees in twelve major camps, and many more smaller, and often improvised ones. The peacekeepers have to devote considerable resources to defending themselves, and their own bases. The local bandits know the terrain, and give the peacekeepers a wide berth. The UN is determined to get food and medical aid to the refugees, and the bandits are determined to steal as much of this aid as they can. Only the peacekeepers, and occasionally the Chadian security forces (who often go rogue and steal themselves), can put a dent in the theft. The UN has to pay an increasingly larger portion of the aid money to hire locals as security guards, or just give the money to local warlords to purchase "protection."

Welcome to hell. All donations eagerly accepted.


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