The first of 400 Polish soldiers will arrive in the eastern border region of Chad in March and April to help protect Chad civilians and refugees from the Darfur region of neighboring Sudan.
The mission will be challenging. “This is in the middle of Africa, one of the most inaccessible places in the world when we think about transport,” said Maj. Gen. Franciszek Gagor, Poland?s chief of staff.
Since 2005 Chad has been in a state of war with Sudan. The conflict has grown to involve troops from Chad and the rebel groups in Darfur. The rebels include the United Front for Democratic Change, Janjaweed, and the Alliance of Revolutionary Forces of West Sudan.
There are two main reasons why Poland has decided to take part in the EU mission.
The most important is humanitarian aid for Chad?s civilians. An insurgency against the Chadian government based in Darfur and supported by the Sudanese government is launching attacks into Chad.
Sudanese militia operating from Darfur are increasing attacks against civilians in eastern Chad.
A year ago, while many Chadians faced increasing pressure over resources due to the influx of Darfurian refugees, few were directly affected by the violence.
Today, armed attacks in eastern Chad have displaced at least 90,000 Chadians and have included the use of rape and sexual violence against women and girls.
In August 2006, the UN Security Council issued a statement condemning the attacks and supporting the mediation of the African Union.
The Security Council also appealed to donors to continue supporting the crucial work of the African Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in stemming the violence in this suffering region and providing critical humanitarian assistance to millions of war-afflicted civilians in Darfur and across the border in Chad.
Another reason for taking part in the mission is Poland’s obligation to the EU.
“Poland, thanks to taking part in this mission, will strengthen its position within European security and defense policy,” said the speaker of the Sejm (Polish Parliament), Bronislaw Komorowski.
The Polish military contingent in Chad will patrol the area and guard the convoys carrying humanitarian aid. However, the main aim of the peacemaking mission is to control the spread of the conflict and to ensure the stabilization and protection for civilians.
Soldiers who will serve in Chad will struggle with difficult conditions of living: a lack of water, no electricity, attacks from local people and tropical illnesses especially cholera.
“There is a concern that the local people (of Chad) will think about international soldiers as the aggressors,” said Brig. Gen. Andrzej Lelewski.
However, according to the Polish generals, the mission in Chad will be safer than those in Iraq and Afghanistan. And its maximum duration will be one year.