body-container-line-1
21.07.2021 Chad

Path unclear for Chad's democratic transition as allies back junta

By Ali ABBA KAYA and Dylan GAMBA
New strongman: General Mahamat Idriss Deby took the reins after his father was killed fighting rebels.  By Brahim ADJI (Tchad Presidential Palace/AFP)
LISTEN JUL 21, 2021
New strongman: General Mahamat Idriss Deby took the reins after his father was killed fighting rebels. By Brahim ADJI (Tchad Presidential Palace/AFP)

Chad has been spared turmoil since the April death of 30-year ruler Idriss Deby Itno, but prospects for a return to elections and dialogue with rebels under his son are murky.

Deby's son, 37-year-old four-star general Mahamat, took over at the head of a so-called Transitional Military Council (CMT) following his father's death from wounds sustained on the front line.

The generals promised "free and transparent" elections after an 18-month "transition" -- but also proceeded to dissolve parliament and repeal the constitution.

But a promised "national dialogue," which was supposed to include bitter critics, has yet to begin and a 93-strong body supposed to draft a new constitution has yet to be appointed.

Mahamat Deby told Jeune Afrique magazine last month that "the CMT has no calling to confiscate power".

But he did not rule out an extension of the transition if the conditions are not met for polls.

"The first thing is that we Chadians are able to come to an understanding", and "the second is that our partners help us to finance the dialogue and the elections," Deby said.

'Blackmail'

France under President Emmanuel Macron has already promised more help for Chad, with an eye on the role of N'Djamena's respected military in fighting the jihadist threat unfurling across the Sahel.

Macron had already been the only Western head of state to attend Idriss Deby's funeral and appear alongside Mahamat, and on July 5 he hosted the new Chadian strongman in Paris, where he reiterated his support for the transition and promised "more budgetary aid".

"Chad really needs money," said French researcher Jerome Tubiana.

French President Emmanuel Macron alongside General Mahamat Idriss Deby at the state funeral of his father, former president Idriss Deby Itno.  By Issouf SANOGO (AFP) French President Emmanuel Macron alongside General Mahamat Idriss Deby at the state funeral of his father, former president Idriss Deby Itno. By Issouf SANOGO (AFP)

"Following Idriss Deby's example, the CMT knows how to use the country's troop deployment abroad to blackmail France."

Paris is especially keen to keep Chad in the fight as it plans a drawdown in the number of its troops stationed in the Sahel -- its Barkhane force currently has 5,100 men.

Aside from France, "the African Union could have been a means of pressure on the new authorities, but it decided to turn a blind eye," Tubiana said.

As the Chadian opposition denounced a military "coup" with the takeover by the CMT, the AU made no protest at all, just insisting alongside France on the 18-month transition timetable.

Since then, even the most outspoken opponents of the junta have not organised street protests -- although political expression was also tightly controlled under the elder Deby.

Face-off with rebels

Idriss Deby was killed during fighting in the arid North Kanem region between the army and rebels of the Front for Alternation and Concord in Chad (FACT).

They launched their offensive on April 11, the day of a presidential election that Deby won easily according to official results.

Chad.  By Patricio ARANA (AFP) Chad. By Patricio ARANA (AFP)

In early May, the security forces claimed they had "routed" the enemy.

But on Tuesday, Mahamat Deby said the rebels "have not yet laid down their arms."

"They act every day to destabilise our institutions and slow our march towards progress and development," he said.

Deby has previously accused the rebels, whose rear base is in Libya, of being mercenaries "trained by foreign forces".

In June, Togo attempted mediation between N'Djamena and FACT as well as two other armed groups, a rebel leader who participated in the meetings told AFP, asking not to be named.

He said that the rebels had set pre-conditions for talks that included prisoner release "and the fact that we do not recognise the new authorities."

"There has been no follow-up since," the source said.

ModernGhana Links

Join our Newsletter

body-container-line