Saturday, March 29, 2008

Help or Hinderance

The European Union has been accused of "supporting a dictator" by deploying a military mission to Chad that is largely comprised of troops from France, the country's former colonial master.

Tobias Pfloger, a Left German member of the European Parliament , severely criticised Eufor in a Mar. 27 debate.Arguing that the logic of sending this mission is unclear, he described its deployment as "highly irresponsible".
"The best thing would be to put a stop to the Eufor Chad mission now, to say we don't want the situation on the ground to escalate due to the presence of our mission," he said."People seem to be putting on velvet gloves and refraining from criticism because it is linked to the French government,"

French Green MEP Marie-Anne Isler-Béguin. "At the moment, we are basically supporting a dictator," she said.

Nearly half of a 3,700-strong EU force (Eufor) had arrived in Chad, with the remainder expected to be there before the local rainy season begins in May or June. The domination of French soldiers in the force has fuelled claims that it would be virtually impossible to distinguish the operation from almost 2,000 French troops participating in a separate mission in Chad. Known as Epervier, the latter mission has shored up the regime of President Idriss Deby, who seized power in a 1990 military coup. During an uprising in the capital N'Djamena earlier this year, French troops guarded the airport where helicopter gunships used to ward off rebel fighters were based.This was not the first time that Deby has effectively been rescued by French troops, who are stationed in Chad under an agreement dating from the 1970s. In 2006, the French gave logistical support to Deby when he successfully repelled an onslaught by the rebel United Front for Democracy.France's government has also been reluctant to publicly criticise Deby and his henchmen for ordering the arrest of opposition leaders, some of whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Michael Gahler, a German conservative, suggested that France's existing presence in Chad could compromise Eufor's nominal impartiality. "The question is: can the people in Chad distinguish between these white faces -- the neutral troops and the troops that are there on the side of the government?"

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