Chad, long racked by violence and poverty, seems to be moving into a calmer phase where its energies can be focused on development, the top United Nations official in the central African country said.
“There are positive signs on the horizon,” Michele Falavigna, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Chad, told a news conference.
These included the return home of some of the country’s 168 000 internally displaced people, the gradual creation of a settled environment in refugee camps, and diplomatic contacts between Chad and its estranged neighbour Sudan.
Later this month, the UN would be seeking some $470 million for a 2010 humanitarian programme directed not just at relief but also projects to build up social infrastructure.
“Next year will be a critical one for the country. Chad is passing out of the acute emergency phase towards stabilisation, although banditry continues to be a chronic problem,” he said.
The 74 projects to be funded half to be run by UN agencies and half by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would aim to provide better living conditions and jobs, particularly for young people who had been in armed groups.
Full details of the programme would be issued when the UN releases its overall humanitarian appeals to international donors at the end of the month, officials in Geneva said.
Falavigna agreed that relief operations in Chad, including those targeting some 325 000 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic as well as the 168 000 internally displaced Chadians, were being hit by continuing lawlessness.
Last week six foreign aid groups suspended operations in eastern Chad following the killing of one aid worker and the kidnapping of another in the wake of some 50 other attacks earlier this year.
But Falavigna said the crushing of rebellions by Chad government forces and diplomatic contacts between the Sudanese and Chadian governments aimed at calming the situation in border areas were new elements helping stabilise the situation.
Diplomats say the two countries have used rebel forces from both in a “proxy war” that developed out of years of fighting between government and insurgent forces in Sudan’s Darfur region that borders Chad.
Pic: Chadian rebels