Unrest in Chad reaches new heights as live ammunition was fired into a crowd of demonstrators on Tuesday, April 26th, killing six people. Chad has faced continuous unrest following the death of President Idriss Déby. Protestors have objected to the new de facto President Mahamat Déby Into, the son of slain President Idriss Déby and Chairman of Transitional Military Council. According to the UN, since President Idriss Déby’s death, authorities have banned all protests, leading to the arrests of over 700 hundred people.
Marta Hurtado, the spokesperson for the OHCHR, condemned the use of firearms against protesters in a regular press briefing in Geneva. Hurtado claimed that firearms should only be used if there is “an imminent threat to life or of serious injury, and only as a matter of last resort.” Hurtado exclaimed that Chad remains obligated under international human rights law “to protect and respect human rights, including the right to life, and to facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”
The military rejects the claims made about anti-government protesters being peaceful, as a spokesman for the military claims that crowds killed a retired police officer during the unrest. However, the UN remains adamant that the use of force must be restrained against protestors. Hurtado is requesting the State institutions to conduct a transparent investigation into the human rights violations that may have occurred against citizens and protesters since the death of President Idriss Déby.
In criticism of the military’s use of power, opposition leader Succes Masra told Reuters that the military’s actions “will not go far as long as we do not return to the foundations desired by the people: a civilian president, a [military] vice-president.”
When the military council took control over the Chadian government, they went directly against Chad’s constitution. If the President can not serve, power must be given to the President of the National Assembly. However, the government’s ambition to remain in power may have started long before the death of President Idriss Déby. Leading up to the April 11th, 2021 election, a coalition of non-governmental groups, including labour unions and various opposition political parties, organized peaceful demonstrations in the capital, N’Djamena, and across the country, despite the government ban on public gatherings. The Déby’s government had his security forces crackdown on anyone who opposed his governance, beating protesters and firing teargas at them. By doing so, Déby was actively suppressing fundamental freedoms. According to Human Rights Watch, the Supreme Court of Chad only approved 10 candidates and rejected many of Déby’s opponents because their parties were not “legally constituted.”
Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke urged people to support the interim government, stating, “We must join forces to guarantee peace and restore calm.” There are no clear signs that free and fair elections will occur if the protest ended, considering the totalitarian rule of Déby and his allies for the past three decades.
BBC Timeline details Chad’s totalitarian rise, including the increased power President Idriss Déby obtained in the new 2018 constitution.
Despite the protests, Mahamat Déby Into claims democracy will be restored in Chad within 18 months. While countries such as France have condemned the shootings that targeted protesters, France has been accused of giving their intelligence information on the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) to the Chadian army. Consequently, France remains in a close relationship with the country despite the political unrest, making it unclear if the international community will support the Chadian protests. The OWP will continue to monitor this situation closely.
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