Two dead, 27 injured as Chadian protesters demand civilian rule
At least two people were killed and 27 injured in street clashes in Chad on Tuesday between protesters demanding a return to civilian rule and security forces, prompting France’s key ally to condemn the crackdown.
Tensions have been high in Chad since the sudden death last week of President Idriss Deby, who ruled the impoverished desert country for three decades. He was killed on April 19 while visiting troops fighting the rebels. Read more
A military council headed by his son took control of the country after his death, but faces resistance from some Chadians who yearn for change after Deby’s autocratic rule. Some opposition lawmakers describe what happened as a coup.
Defying the military-imposed ban on protests during a period of national mourning for Deby, protesters took to the streets of the capital N’Djamena and other urban centers to demand a transition to civilian rule.
A health official at a N’Djamena hospital, who requested anonymity, said a protester in his 20s was dead and 27 others were injured. The cause of the young man’s death was not known.
Witnesses also reported the death of another protester in Moundou, the second largest city in Chad. Social media users said the man was shot, but this has not been confirmed.
“We don’t want our country to become a monarchy,” said Mbaidiguim Marabel, a 34-year-old protester. “The soldiers must return to the barracks to make way for a civilian transition.”
Reuters journalists in N’Djamena saw hundreds of protesters dispersed by security forces with tear gas. Social media posts said live bullets were used in some locations, but Reuters could not independently verify this.
Protesters burned tires in several neighborhoods and a Reuters witness said firefighters were struggling to contain a blaze large enough to be seen from a distance.
A spokesperson for the authorities said security forces were trying to contain the protesters while limiting property damage.
France, which has a military presence in Chad and was a long-time supporter of Deby whom it saw as an important ally in the fight against Islamist extremists in the Sahel region of Africa, condemned the use of force against the protesters.
President Emmanuel Macron declared in Paris that he “had strongly condemned the repression of the demonstrations and the violence which took place this morning in N’Djamena”.
A change of position after previously supporting the military council and its civilian allies, Macron called for the establishment of a government of civil unity to rule Chad, a former French colony, until the elections to be held in the 18 months. Read more
“I am in favor of a peaceful, democratic and inclusive transition, I am not in favor of a succession plan. France will never support those who pursue such a project,” Macron said in an apparent reference to the role of the son by Deby.
The military council has announced its intention to oversee the transition, led by Mahamat Idriss Deby, who has been declared president. On Monday, he appointed a civilian politician, Albert Pahimi Padacke, as prime minister of a transitional government.
Since then, security forces have surrounded the home of at least one opposition politician, preventing him from leaving. Dinamou Daram, leader of the Chadian Socialist Party, told Reuters he was under house arrest and supporters at party headquarters were also arrested.
Calm had returned to N’Djaména at noon on Tuesday. Trucks full of soldiers were seen patrolling the city center.
Anti-French sentiment was high among the demonstrators, who accused France of supporting the military council against the will of the people. Social media posts showed protesters burning a French flag.
Reuters journalists in N’Djamena saw companies with French connections, such as a Total gas station, being targeted by protesters.
Deby’s unexpected death came as the Chadian military battled an insurgency by rebels based in Libya, known as the Front for Change and Concorde in Chad (FACT). The rebels came as close as 200-300 km (125-185 miles) from N’Djamena before being driven back by the army.
In a statement Tuesday morning, FACT spokesperson Kingabé Ogouzeïmi of Tapol said the group was “bombarded from all sides” and was now on the defensive.
Chad’s military council on Sunday rejected an offer by the rebels for peace talks, calling them “outlaws” to be hunted down and arrested for their role in Deby’s death. L8N2MI0LQ
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