Chadian Opposition Leaders Protest Appointment Of New Prime Minister

Opposition leaders in Chad have quickly condemned the appointment of civilian politician Albert Pahimi Padacke by military rulers on Monday after President Idriss Déby died visiting troops in battle against rebels. The ruling military council currently in charge of the government will likely continue to retain full power in this interim stage following the president’s death despite the lingering concerns of opposition politicians, according to Reuters. Amid these developments, Chad’s military council has rejected rebels’ calls for negotiations and emphasized that “‘outlaws’ need to be tracked down and rejected in their role of the president’s death,” (Reuters). Some of the country’s neighbors and France have been trying to help Chad facilitate a civilian-military solution to the ongoing question of government authority, although France later backtracked its comments in support of this kind of solution following concerns from opposition groups, according to Deutsche Welle. 

The military takeover of the country is being challenged internationally. The African Union, according to BBC News, has called for an end to the military rule four days after Chad’s president was killed on the battlefield, urging a return to civilian rule. Chad’s military council has taken a beginning step by naming Padacke as the new prime minister as opposition parties call the military rule a “dynastic coup,” referencing its authority under President Déby’s son Mahamat Idriss Déby, and raise concerns that Chad has escaped constitutional order. The U.S. Department of State, according to Reuters, has acknowledged the naming of a new prime minister as “potentially a positive first step in restoring civilian governance.” Furthermore, French President Emmanuel Macron has initially reaffirmed his country’s commitment to protecting Chad’s stability by calling for a civilian-military solution, but then advocated for a civilian national unity government and elections within 18 months. 

Although the military takeover of Chad following the death of President Déby signals a major shift in the country’s stature as a democratic country in the African Union, it is not surprising given the precedent of a leader being killed and the prevalent rebel presence. Naming a new civilian prime minister is a valuable step in restoring civilian governance to the country, and France’s involvement in the process of peacebuilding is worthy of praise given its accountability to a former colony.

President Macron’s mixed messaging surrounding the foreseeable future of Chad’s stability, however, risks raising public skepticism as the country’s future juggles between civilian and military authority. Since this is an early and potentially transitional stage in the midst of President Déby’s death, it would be ill-advised for the African Union, France, the United States, or the United Nations to take economically hostile actions against Chad within the next few weeks. Rather, these groups should facilitate discourse with the ruling military council in Chad to secure a future with a stable civilian government safe from violence. It is almost certain that protests in the country will rise given the current pushback against the military council by opposition politicians; therefore, the military authority must prevent excessive use of force to maintain peace and public safety.

The late President Déby ruled Chad for thirty years and won a sixth term in an April 2021 election boycotted by opposition politicians. Occurring only one day after the election, his death on the battlefield was part of an ongoing fight between Chad’s forces and rebels from the Libya-based group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT). They crossed into northern Chad on April 11 seeking to remove Déby from power and overthrow the government, according to Al Jazeera. The group was later repulsed from the capital of N’Djamena. Mahamat Idriss Déby, President Déby’s son, was named the head of the military council that would oversee Chad’s transition, which violated constitutional protocol. The newly named prime minister Albert Pahimi Padacke was a longtime ally of President Déby. Reuters reports that the opposition in Chad continues to resist this appointment of prime minister due to alleged disregard of constitutional processes in choosing a premier. 

Long-term democracy in Chad is dependent on civilian authority elected by the people of Chad. To secure such a future, tensions and ongoing violence between Chad’s military and the FACT rebels must be addressed, and international involvement in this respect must be welcomed through peaceful means. If the military council were to usurp power indefinitely despite having the capacity to help Chad transition to civilian governance, it will endanger the country’s security by stagnating progress in stemming tensions within the country. This ongoing authority by a junta will empower FACT rebels to take advantage of the disunity, sparking further unrest and signaling more uncharted waters.

Benjamin Fikhman