Four troops from EUFOR, the European Union force in Chad, were arrested on 7 May by local authorities near the southern town of Moundou. They have not yet been released.
“This is in blatant violation of the agreement we made with the government which established the current EUforce in Chad,” the spokesman for EUFOR in N’djamena Lieutenant Colonel Jean Axelos told IRIN on 9 May.
According to state-run radio, the four EUFOR troops were “disguised as tourists” and traveling in an unauthorized area. The radio said local police confiscated the soldiers’ weapons, communications equipment and vehicles.
Axelos said the government had signed a Status of Force Agreement allowing EUFOR troops to travel everywhere in the country. “We are going to write a letter of complaint about this to the relevant Chadian authorities,” he said.
“We hope it is the first and last time this happens.”
On 8 January the EU launched EUFOR into the volatile east of Chad and northeast Central African Republic where various armed groups frequently clash. The 2,379 EUFOR troops currently on the ground are there to help protect humanitarian personnel providing aid to 250,000 refugees from Sudan’s neighbouring Darfur region as well as 180,000 displaced Chadians.
The four arrested troops, two from Finland and two from Sweden, were on a reconnaissance mission when they were stopped, Axelos said. They were taken to a hotel in Moundou before being transported to the capital N’djamena.
“They have not yet arrived,” Axelos said. “When they do we fully expect the authorities to release them.”
He said he had no information on what had happened to EUFOR’s weapons, vehicles and communication equipment.
Asked to explain why he thought the incident had occurred, Axelos said he could not say for sure but suspected a lack of communication between local authorities in Moundou and the central government in N’djamena.
“Why else would the government breach an agreement like this?” he said.