African Union And Chad Junta Seek Peaceful Transition Of Power

On May 20th, 2021, the African Union (AU), a continental body of African countries, called for a “democratic transition” for the Chad government within 18 months. This announcement follows the death of Chad’s President Idriss Deby last month during a battle with the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), a Libya-based rebel group.  The Transitional Military Council, led by General Mahamat Idriss Deby, president Deby’s son, replaced the former administration. The TMC currently consists of 40 ministers and deputy ministers and a new National Reconciliation and Dialogue Ministry. The new ministry is led by Acheick Ibn Oumar, a former rebel leader who has served as a diplomatic advisor to Deby’s administration since 2019. The TMC kept several of the late president’s cabinet members and named an opposition figure, Mahamat Ahmat Alhabo, the justice minister. 

President Deby was viewed as an invaluable leader in Chad and an important figure in the fight against extremist groups in the Sahel region. His efforts in Nigeria and Libya against Boko Haram, FACT, and other groups have been instrumental in stopping the groups from expanding further in the region. While many criticized his “iron-fist” leadership and “style of dictatorship,” his participation and success in the fight against terrorism in the region gave many people reason to accept his authority.

His death poses a potential danger to Chad and the Sahel, especially regarding preventing the spread of Boko Haram. Nigerian president Muhannadu Buhari said Deby’s death created “a vacuum in the efforts to jointly confront Boko Haram terrorists and the Islamic State West Africa Province.” His death, many experts say, will test the nation’s stability, especially given the nature of the transition. The nation’s stability is also a concern for many citizens of Chad who took to the streets following the TMC’s control of the nation in late April. The protestors expressed concerns for the fairness of the upcoming transition and concerns about increases in conflicts with groups like FACT. 

After citizens took to the streets following the military council’s takeover, the junta banned protests citing a threat to public order and a need to mourn the passing of their president. Local media reported teargas and heavy smoke in the capital, Ndjamena, following the ban. The African Union voiced concerns over the protests and the “violence, insurrection, and rebellion, and the heightened insecurity and political tensions” in the Sahel region stemming from the conflicts in Libya. 

Following the protests and concerns from the AU, the TMC announced the installation of a transitional civilian government in late April. The transitional government is headed by Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke, president of the National Rally for Democracy, an opposition party in Chad. Junta spokesperson Azem Bermandoa Agouna also announced that at least three other opposition members are part of the transitional government. General Deby and the TMC support the AU’s calls for a “democratic transition” of power through their institution of the transitional government. Including opposition party members indicates the TMC’s willingness to develop a civilian government and support a peaceful transition of power.

However, concerns over human rights, freedom of expression, and assembly have been voiced by the AU. The concerns stem from the brutal put down of protests following the death of Deby senior, as well as the former president’s history of banning protests. These concerns are supposed to be addressed by the TMC’s National Reconciliation and Dialogue Ministry and the new constitution being drafted by the TMC and the transitional civilian government.