Chad: The challenges of political transition.

The political situation in the African nation of Chad has been a rollercoaster for the past 1 year. Over these years the country has slowly slalomed through different unfortunate occurrences that have left the citizens stuck in a limbo of lousy leadership and uncertainty.

The cascade started on the 20th of April 2021, when the long-term President, who had only recently won re-election for yet another term, was pronounced dead. The death of Chad’s former president Idriss Déby Itno surprised everyone, from the stunned streets of N’Djamena to the highest summits of African states. The details announced said he was killed in battle at the frontlines. The president was famous for his hands-on involvement in the war against Islamic terrorist groups at the country’s borders and in Sahel region. 

The circumstances surrounding Deby’s death were not immediately clear. The army said the President was commanding his army over the weekend as it battled rebels who launched a major incursion into the country’s north on April 11, Election Day.

In the statement released by the government, the now late President would be replaced by a military council led by his 37-year-old son, four-star General Mahamat Idriss Deby.

According to experts, the speaker of parliament, Haroun Kabadi, not Deby’s son, should have taken power following his father’s death under Chadian law.

“According to the constitution, in the absence of the president or if he dies, the speaker of the parliament takes charge of the country for 40 days, establishing a transition period until elections are held… …. but the military announced that the legislative assembly and the constitution had both been dissolved, so what they are doing is replacing the constitution with their own set of rules.”

Two weeks after the death of Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno, the ruling junta appointed a transitional government led by his son Mahamat Idriss Deby to address international and domestic concerns. Following Idriss Déby Itno’s 30-year reign, the opposition and civil society accused the council of staging an “institutional coup” and perpetuating a “dynasty.”

The interesting thing about the military council was that most of the regal ministries remained in the hands of the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), the party of the late president, according to the list announced by the army spokesman, General Azem Bermandoa Agouna. Several former ministers of the last government of Idriss Déby Itno such as Amina Priscille Longoh, have been reappointed in their previous portfolio or appointed to another ministry.  

On May 11, the junta, headed by 37-year-old Mahamat Deby and made up of 14 other generals, named former prime minister Albert Pahimi Padacke, who was runner-up in the Sahel country’s April 11 presidential election, as interim premier. Pahimi Padacke was the last prime minister under president Idriss Deby Itno.

Deby Jr, the head of Chad’s military junta, has named 93 members of a new interim parliament, five months after declaring himself leader following the death of his father, Idriss Deby Itno.

Members of the military junta. Photo:

“The following people have been designated members of the National Transitional Council,” said the decree signed by the four-star general, who dissolved parliament and promised “free and transparent” elections in 18 months when he declared himself head of the Transitional Military Council on April 20.

Members of the late president Deby’s former opposition were present, but none from the opposition platform Wakit Tamma or civil society organizations that have condemned the coup by the younger Deby.

Apart from being the country that colonised Chad, the country is also an important ally in France’s fight against Islamist extremism in Africa’s Sahel region. The Chadian government have held close ties with the French government and at least twice, in 2008 and 2019, French forces rescued Idriss Deby’s regime from rebels. President Emmanuel Macron was also the only Western head of state to attend Deby’s funeral and the country has been behind the new regime. Along with the unstable political situation, it didn’t come as a surprise when the unhappy citizens took to the streets to protest the undemocratic leadership and the French support. 

“What right do we have to accept that French people, who are not accepted in West Africa, have returned here? By what authority? Nobody is aware of it. If they are that powerful, they can go to Ukraine and start a war “Wakit Tamma member Avocksouma Djona said.

The ruling junta stated that democratic elections will be held after an 18-month transition period, however, with the parliament dissolved, the constitution repealed and a postponement on handover, many people in Chad are concerned about the future of democracy. 

“When authorities’ attempts to ban the protest did not deter demonstrators, security forces took over the main streets in the capital N’Djamena and fired tear gas, injuring several people, and arresting dozens of demonstrators who have been released on the same day,” Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International Central Africa researcher commented after one of the protests. The military junta banned and cracked down on the protests with a violent force which drew the consternation of the world. Protest leaders were arrested and arraigned in courts, but the fairness of the trials has been questioned given that it is being held under military rules.

Anti Junta/Anti France protests in Chad. Photo:

This situation hasn’t been helped by the postponement of reconciliation dialogues in Qatar. The Chadian military junta postponed a reconciliation dialogue scheduled for May 10 before elections to an unspecified date, while preliminary talks with the rebels continue in Qatar. Both international stakeholders and citizens of the country are unsatisfied and growing more and more concerned about the intentions of Deby Jr and his interim government. It looks precariously close to being what was feared; an attempt at continuing the Deby dynasty.

In more recent happenings, the military junta announced new details for the reconciliation talks, which are expected to lead to election preparation. 

“The inclusive national dialogue is convened from 20 August,” according to a decree of the Transitional Military Council by the junta-appointed prime minister, Albert Pahimi Padacké.- This talk is dependent on the agreement of the main opposition “Wakit Tamma”. The group have been responsible for a lot of the opposition and push back against the military junta in the country.

The people of Chad, stuck in one of the poorest economies of the world and in an uncertain situation where it is getting increasingly harder, can only hope against hope that a quick miracle happens. The Covid-19 pandemic hit the country hard and recovery has been unsurprisingly slow. As the rest of the world watches and joins in hope, the expectation is at least that the planned negotiations eventually take place and a peaceful democratic solution is found again to allow the implementation of the United Nations SDGs properly and to bring progress to the country.

About the author

Olivier Noudjalbaye Dedingar

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