Chad forces to take over from UN
Ndjamena - The government in Chad insisted on Wednesday that the agreed withdrawal of UN peacekeepers would not leave a security vacuum, after warnings it could endanger thousands of refugees and aid workers.
The UN Security Council voted on Tuesday to order the withdrawal of the 3 300-strong UN force in Chad and neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) - known as Minurcat - as requested by the Chadian government.
Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat said the international forces would be replaced by Chad's own police and integrated security detachments (DIS) trained by the UN to protect refugee camps.
"The departure of Minurcat will not leave a vacuum because its place will be taken by the DIS," he said.
The DIS would also be equipped with new materiel for their mission, the minister said.
"We have put in place a mixed Chadian-Sudanese force of 3 000 men. This force is already carrying out its work on the ground," the minister said.
Amnesty International (AI) has said the move could leave large numbers of "vulnerable" people at risk in eastern Chad near the border with Sudan, where there are thousands of displaced Chadians and refugees from Darfur in Sudan.
UN humanitarian agencies have also said the departure of the peacekeepers could leave a security vacuum in the east, where aid workers face constant attacks by bandits, unless Chad forces step in immediately.
The Chad minister said however: "The situation in the east of the country has improved."
"Relations between Chad and Sudan are better," Faki added, commenting on the normalisation of relations between the two countries.
He said the government would "co-operate perfectly with the UN" over the refugees to enable them to voluntarily return to their country "when conditions allow".
The UN Security Council resolution, adopted unanimously, initially cuts the military component of the UN mission to 2 200 troops - 1 900 in Chad and 300 in the CAR - and 25 liaison officers.
It directed UN chief Ban Ki-moon to make the first cut by July 15 and to start the withdrawal of the remaining troops on October 15.
The resolution called on Ban to complete the pullout of all UN forces "other than those required for the mission's liquidation" by December 31.
And it extended the mandate of Minurcat, which expired on Wednesday, to December 31.
Ban welcomed the resolution, under which the Chadian government assumes full responsibility for protecting civilians "under international norms".