It took some time for the international community to recognise the cross-border dimensions of the Darfur conflict. In December 2006 then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the first time proposed the deployment of a multidimensional UN peacekeeping mission to Chad and CAR, which included a mandate to facilitate an inclusive political dialogue in both countries. Déby outright rejected this proposal, which he painted as an illegitimate interference in Chad’s internal affairs. Libya and Sudan were also opposed to a UN force in eastern Chad. In February 2007 the new UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki¬moon, proposed a less ambitious plan, but it was also rejected.
The tide turned in May 2007 when Bernard Kouchner became foreign minister of France. Kouchner was eager to ‘do something’ in Darfur, but his offer to establish humanitarian corridors was dismissed by humanitarian organisations as counter-productive. He then took up the idea of sending European peacekeepers to eastern Chad, who, together with the EU-funded joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission already stationed in Darfur, would contain the cross-border effects of the conflict. Déby agreed to Kouchner’s offer after obtaining a series of compromises: the peacekeeping force would not have a political mandate and it would not operate in areas immediately bordering Sudan.
Kouchner’s project was controversial within the EU as a number of member states, most importantly Germany, suspected the mission to be a fig leaf for advancing French interests in Chad. Nevertheless, in September 2007 EU foreign ministers approved the establishment of an EU force in eastern Chad and north¬eastern CAR for the duration of one year. The UN Security Council subsequently authorised the deployment of EUFOR, alongside a UN mission, MINURCAT, which was tasked with training Chadian police officers operating within camps for the displaced.
The deployment of peacekeepers explicitly aimed to address some of the cross-border dimensions of armed conflict in the region. EUFOR spanned two countries and UN Security Council resolution 1778 authorising the mission acknowledged that ‘the situation in the region of the border between the Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic constitutes a threat to international peace and security’.
The EU also saw its engagement in Chad and CAR through a regional lens. In September 2008 Javier Solana, the then EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, stated that ‘the presence of EUFOR contributes to mitigating regional tensions. This is fundamental since what happens in Chad and CAR is linked to what happens in Darfur, and vice versa’.
EUFOR was operational from March 2008 until March 2009, when it officially handed over to the UN mission MINURCAT II. With 3,700 soldiers, 2,100 of whom were French, EUFOR cost €1 billion and was the largest ever autonomous EU military operation. Operating from four bases in eastern Chad and one in north-eastern CAR, the EU peacekeepers focused on securing areas around camps for the displaced and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
While the security dimension was undoubtedly its centrepiece, as mentioned above the EU’s response to cross-border conflict dynamics in Chad included three additional pillars, which, in theory at least, aimed to constitute a broader peacebuilding agenda. First, the EU provided funding for humanitarian aid, aimed at alleviating the effects of the supposed cross-border violence in eastern Chad. The contributions from the European Commission alone, without counting donations from individual EU member states, doubled between 2005-06 and 2007-09 to roughly $50 million per year.
Second, as part of its development cooperation with Chad, the EU extended its funding for governance projects, such as reforms of the justice and police sectors, decentralisation, and public finance reform. These projects were aimed at addressing some of the structural problems of the Chadian state, which, as mentioned above, are an important driver of armed conflict in the region.
Finally, the EU was engaged at the political level as a means of addressing the underlying causes of armed violence in Chad and in the region. The EU sponsored and, through its head of delegation in Chad, acted as mediator in negotiations between the Chadian government and members of the non-armed political opposition. These talks culminated in the 13 August 2007 agreement, which set out a blueprint for electoral reform with the aim of strengthening the democratic process in Chad. On the regional level, EU Special Representative Torben Brylle was involved in the diplomatic process to improve relations between Chad and Sudan.