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Security situation in eastern Chad still extremely volatile

Briefing notes

Security situation in eastern Chad still extremely volatile

6 October 2006

The security situation throughout eastern Chad remains extremely volatile as unidentified armed groups continue to operate in the region and frequently target humanitarian workers. In the past 10 days, three more vehicles belonging to humanitarian agencies were stolen by unidentified armed men in the region of Guéréda and Bahai.

Unsuccessful attempts were also made to steal two other vehicles, which involved acts of violence against humanitarian workers. In one of the incidents, a group of armed men wearing military uniforms stormed the premises of a humanitarian agency and held all staff at gunpoint while attempting to steal the agency's pick-up truck. When this failed, they proceeded to another agency's compound and repeated the same scenario, taking humanitarian staff hostage. Warned of the situation, the Chadian gendarmerie intervened by firing in the air, causing the assailants to flee. All hostages were unharmed.

This succession of incidents brings to a staggering total of 40 the number of cars that have been stolen from humanitarian agencies operating in eastern Chad in less than one year - since November 2005. To date, only about half of these cars have been recovered, and no one has been arrested for these crimes.

The precarious security situation also has a direct impact on the work of humanitarian actors in safely accessing some refugee camps. We need to drive in convoys with armed escorts provided by the Chadian government to six of the 12 refugee camps. However, one concrete measure to provide greater security for humanitarian workers, refugees, and the Chadian host populations is the signing of a memorandum of understanding at the end of September between the government and UNHCR. Thanks to this agreement, 75 additional Chadian gendarmes will be posted among UNHCR's five operational hubs serving the current 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad - Bahai, Iriba, Guéréda, Farchana and Goz Beida. They will be joining more than 200 gendarmes already deployed throughout eastern Chad to ensure a 5 km security perimeter around each of the refugee camps. Gendarmes will undergo training sessions regarding international law and humanitarian assistance. The training will be organized by UNHCR and its partners.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, we began the transfer of 284 Sudanese refugees from the border in the Guéréda area to Kounoungou refugee camp. The group arrived last August in Seneit, a small village located 5 km from the Chad-Sudan border, following the continuing deterioration of the security situation at the border and in nearby Darfur. Another 900 refugees, who have been living in the area since 2005, have likewise expressed their interest in being moved to the camp after the November harvest. The group, currently totalling over 1,000 people, is a mix of recent arrivals and others who fled Darfur as long as one year ago.

Together with our partner agencies, we are currently assisting some 213,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur in eastern Chad, as well as tens of thousands of Chadian displaced persons. There are also some 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in three camps in southern Chad.