Monday, May 26, 2008
Irish Army mission to Chad begins in earnest
Last week 161 troops of the 97th Infantry battalion arrived in Goz Beida on the Border of Chad and Sudan. This brought the number of Irish troops serving in the EUFOR mission to 350. In June that number will reach its peak at 450. Of the total 3,700 troops due to serve with EUFOR only the French will have a larger contingent than the Irish. Other nations serving include Austria, Belgium, Sweden and Holland. Irishman Lieutenant General Pat Nash is in command of EUFOR's mission to Chad.
In February 50 members of the elite Army Ranger Wing were deployed to the border region along with French special forces in order to assess the area in terms of logistics and to determine the level of rebel activity in the region. One of their goals was to make contact with locals and inform them of the upcoming EUFOR mission and its mandate. This has gone relatively smoothly although two weeks ago 30 members of the Ranger Wing did have an encounter with a group of 200 rebels from an anti government group called Union of Forces for Change and Democracy (UFCD). The incident apparently passed peacefully as both sides simply stated their objectives and pledged not to interfere with one another.
So what is EUFOR's mandate ? This UN mandated mission's objective is to set up refugee camps inside Chad along the border with Sudan's Darfur region and ensure that civilians have a safe place to flee to. Civilians are fleeing from the genocide in Darfur, fighting in North East Central African Republic and the Chadian civil war itself. EU forces are not supposed to get involved in any way in Chad's civil war. That being said EUFOR does have a strong peace enforcement mandate which means they "can fire on armed groupings to prevent criminal acts against refugees, aid agencies, or EUFOR personnel". This is a stronger mandate than many standard peace keeping missions.
Gubu World believes that this is an entirely honorable mission and is proud that Ireland is taking a leading role in it. I am personally disappointed that a very vocal minority in Ireland have decided to label this an imperialist adventure. Individuals associated with Indymedia and the socialist Workers Party claim that the real agenda is to prop up the pro French Chadian government of President Idriss Deby in order to secure oil supplies for Europe. This is ridiculous. Look at UN resolution 1778. EUFOR's mission is about protecting refugees that have been through utter hell in recent years. They are under strict orders to stay out of of the Chadian conflict. I think its a shame the far left could not have wished these 450 brave young men and women well on their mission rather than invent some sinister motive that fits into their anti capitalist view of the world. I for one wish Lieutenant General Pat Nash and the Irish battalion all the very best on their mission.
Go ndeiri an tadh libh lads