Protests rock N’Djamena as Chadians demand civilian rule following Deby’s death


April 27, 2021


Chadian security forces patrol the capital N’Djamena on April 26, 2021. © Zohra Bensemra, Reuters




At least five people were killed in violent protests in Chad on Tuesday as demonstrators took to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule after the military took control following President Idriss Deby’s battlefield death last week.

“There were four deaths in N’Djamena,” including “one killed by the demonstrators”, the capital’s prosecutor Youssouf Tom said. One person was killed in a separate incident in the country’s second city Moundou, some 400 kilometres south of N’Djamena, another prosecutor said.

Tuesday’s unrest underscores the tense atmosphere following Deby’s death in Chad, where the military transition is already struggling to win over a population exhausted by 30 years of monolithic rule.

The military council seized power after Deby was killed as he visited troops fighting rebels on April 19.

Some opposition politicians have called the military takeover a coup and asked supporters to protest, even as the army appointed a civilian politician, Albert Pahimi Padacke, as prime minister of a transitional government on Monday.

The military council banned protests in a statement Monday evening, saying no demonstrations that could lead to disorder were allowed while the country was still in mourning.

The council, headed by Deby’s son Mahamat Idriss Deby who was declared president, has said it will oversee an 18-month transition to elections.

Deby pledged an “inclusive national dialogue” and to “fight terrorism and respect all [Chad’s] international obligations” in a video address Tuesday.

No to ‘monarchy’

Police responded with tear gas on Tuesday as protesters burned tyres in several neighbourhoods of N’Djamena. A Reuters witness said that firefighters struggled to contain the blaze which was large enough to be seen from several neighbourhoods away.

“We do not want our country to become a monarchy,” said 34-year-old protester Mbaidiguim Marabel. “The military must return to the barracks to make way for a civil transition.”

Trucks loaded with soldiers were seen patrolling the streets around central N’Djamena.

“The police came, they fired tear gas. But we are not scared,” said Timothy Betouge, age 70.

The African Union has expressed “grave concern” about the military takeover, while France, the former colonial ruler, and some of Chad’s neighbours are pushing for a civilian-military solution.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that he “emphatically condemned the repression of the demonstrations and the violence that took place this morning in N’Djamena”.

Shifting his position after earlier backing the military council and its civilian allies, Macron called for a civilian unity government to be put in place to run Chad until elections to be held within 18 months.

“I am in favour of a peaceful, democratic, inclusive transition, I am not in favour of a succession plan. France will never support those who pursue such a project,” said Macron in an apparent reference to the role of Deby’s son.

Macron and Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi issued a joint statement Tuesday of their support “for an inclusive transition process open to all Chadian political forces, led by a civilian national unity government that should lead to elections within an 18-month delay”.

Deby’s death came as Chad’s military battles an insurrection by Libya-based rebels known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT). The rebels came as close as 200-300 km (125-185 miles) from N’Djamena before being pushed back by the army.

Chad’s military council rejected an offer from the rebels for peace talks on Sunday, calling them “outlaws” who needed to be tracked down and arrested for their role in Deby’s death.

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