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IN FOCUS | Chad's political crisis

  NIAS Africa Team

Africa Weekly #36, Vol. 1, No. 36
1 November 2022


Explained: Background, Issues and Actors in Chad’s political crisis

The recent events in Chad indicate that despite the military leaders promising a democratic transition, their actions speak otherwise when it comes to ending the transition periods, thereby challenging the fragile peace and stability in the region.

By Anu Maria Joseph

On 21 October, dozens of people were killed in Chad as security forces repressed anti-government protests in the capital city, N'djamena, and Moundou. The protests were carried out against the junta’s decision to postpone the country’s transition to civilian rule and extend its term in power for at least two years. Prime Minister Saleh Kebzabo said that at least 50 people were killed and 300 wounded during the clashes, adding that security forces responded “only in self-defence” when armed protesters were seeking “to seize power by force.”  However, the opposition said that the death toll was closer to 70, and with hundreds wounded, the toll was expected to rise. A state of emergency was declared in N'djamena, Moundou and Koumra, allowing the respective regional governors to “take all necessary measures in compliance with the law” to contain the protests.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat “strongly” condemned the incident. He said: “I call on the parties to respect human lives and property and to favour peaceful ways to overcome the crisis.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association said: “Any use of excessive force against demonstrators exposes their perpetrators to prosecution in accordance with international standards.” The US expressed concern over the number of casualties and the State Department said: “We also condemn the attack that occurred outside the main gate of the US Embassy in which assailants in civilian clothes and private vehicles cleared police checkpoints and killed four individuals.”

Chad’s political crisis: A brief background

President Idriss Deby came to power through a coup in 1991. Corruption, political exclusion, inequalities and repression of dissent have long been trademarks of Deby’s rule in Chad. Periodic violence left the country in instability for decades. After Deby’s death, the military appointed his son Mahamat Deby as interim president. The transitional government dissolved the National Assembly and the constitution after the regime loyalists acceded to the constitution’s succession plan. The Transitional Military Council (CMT) had promised a civilian rule after an 18-month transition, adding that Deby will not take part in the election.

However, on 1 October, during the National Dialogue, the transitional period was extended to two years. It also declared Deby “transitional president” adding he could be a candidate in the upcoming election. On 10 October Deby was sworn in and later appointed opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo as prime minister.

A crucial part of the transition was the promise of an inclusive National Dialogue to form a consensus on constitutional reform and election plans. However, the dialogue was delayed till August, two months before the scheduled end of the transition. The absence of several major political players and several rebel groups questioned the inclusivity of the dialogue and its ability for a democratic transition. Further, a body, mandated to direct the debates and agenda was not appointed by consensus. Most committee leaderships had a close relationship with the old system and regime.

Major actors

The Transitional Military Council headed by Mahamat Deby appears to sustain a regime similar to Idriss Deby’s authoritarian rule.

Since 2016, Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), a Libyan based rebel group, had been carrying out a persistent armed rebellion against Deby’s autocratic regime and the group was responsible for the death of Idriss Deby. The FACT rebels are allegedly being supported by multiple rebel groups and opposition parties.

Chad’s porous borders are a threshold for Islamist insurgent groups based in central Sahel, including Boko Haram, Jama’at Nsr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and other Islamic State of Greater Shara, which could escalate the instability.

Wakit Tama, a coalition of civil society organisations has been continuously protesting against CMT’s narrow governance and demanding a more inclusive national dialogue. Similarly, a major opposition party Les Transformatives, which is targeted by the security forces, called out the stacking of Deby’s loyalists and rallied for reforming the transition process.

France considers Chad to be a key ally. French officials called late Deby a “courageous friend”. Though France has been encouraging an immediate transition towards a civilian government, it seems to be supporting Deby’s son in the interim with an objective to avoid destabilising a critical ally in the fight against extremism.

Major issues

First, persisting political uncertainty. Since the military takeover, Chad remains plagued by political uncertainties. The opposition and civil society groups have been carrying out regular protests demanding a return to civilian rule. The security forces often engage in political violence to contain the protests. The recurrent attempted coups and coups along with extension of the transition have brought in another period of uncertainty with higher risks of further social and political turbulence.

Second, escalating security issues. Besides the internal disturbances, the Lake Chad basin, which stretches along Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, has been a region where jihadist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa (Iswap) have established their hideouts. According to the UN, more than 36,000 people have been killed and three million have been forced to flee their homes amid the escalating insurgency in the region.

Third, poor economic and social performance. Chad is one among the world’s least developed countries where according to a World Bank report, 45 per cent of the population lives in poverty followed by chronic malnutrition and food insecurity. According to UNDP’s Human Development Index 2022, Chad ranks second lowest with 0.394 HDI value. Poor economic and social performance is largely contributed by fragile institutions and its divisive reforms. Besides, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation, climate change has led to 90 per cent shrinking of Lake Chad which has led to lower fisheries production, land and biodiversity degradation, lower agricultural output and impacts on livestock management.

Regional fallouts

Military takeovers, extension of the transition period and repression by security forces are increasingly common in West and Central Africa. Mali experienced two coups in 2020 and 2021 and the junta further extended the transitional period. In May, the coup leader of Guinea announced a transition period of three years. Burkina Faso experienced two coups in eight months this year. Further, the military governments in the respective counties use the security forces to repress the pro-democratic protests which are claiming more lives. Along with Chad, other West and Central African countries which are under a military transition period share a similar trajectory. Despite the military leaders promising a democratic transition, their actions speak otherwise when it comes to ending the transition periods, thereby challenging the fragile peace and stability in the region.

Note: Parts of this commentary was previously published in Conflict Weekly.


26 October - 1 November

By Apoorva Sudhakar and Anu Maria Joseph

Arab League commences amid uncertainties regarding Palestine
On 1 November, Algeria commenced the first Arab League, the first since several Arab countries normalised ties with Israel in 2020. The last Arab League was held in 2019. Algeria is a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and had also mediated a reconciliation process between the Fatah and Hamas factions. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for unity among the Arab countries and said: “Division opens the door to foreign, non-Arab, interference, to terrorism, to manipulation, and sectarian strife. But united, your leadership can shape a region that makes the most of its enormous potential and contributes to global peace and security.” Guterres also stressed on the necessity to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative amid the war between Russia and Ukraine, and called on rich countries to lead the fight against climate change. (“In speech to Arab League, UN chief appeals for greater regional unity,” UN News, 1 November 2022)

At least 100 killed in twin bomb attack
On 30 October, at least 100 people were killed and more than 300 were injured in twin car bomb explosions near Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. AFP news agency quoted the president saying, among the victims “who were massacred were mothers with their children in their arms.” He appealed for international medical aid for the injured civilians. The president blamed al Shabaab militant group for the attack which targeted the education ministry. A pro-al Shabaab Somali Memo website reported that the group has claimed responsibility for the attack. (“Somalia Mogadishu bombings: Twin blasts kill 100 in capital,” BBC, 30 October 2022)

World Bank approves USD 279 million loan
On 27 October, the World Bank said that it has approved a USD 270 million loan to Zambia to help it recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and to manage the debt crisis. In August, the International Monetary Fund had approved a USD 1.3 billion loan to help Zambia to restructure its loan as it failed to repay the same since 2020. In addition, the president of the World Bank has called on other countries to help reduce Zambia's debt. (“World Bank approves $275 million in development support for Zambia,” Africanews, 27 October 2022)

UN criticises military government’s partnership with Wagner
On 26 October, the US State Department's undersecretary for political affairs said Mali’s security situation had significantly worsened because of the military government’s choices, including its relations with Russia’s Wagner Group.The official said that the US ability to assist Mali in its security was limited “by the choice that the Mali government made to get into bed with Wagner.” The US official claimed that with the Mali government’s invitation to Wagner, terrorism had increased by 30 per cent and that there are “broad reports of human rights abuses across the region where (Wagner forces) are working.” The official added: “We worry that these forces are not interested in the safety and security of the people of Mali, but instead are interested in enriching themselves and strip-mining the country -- and are making the terrorism situation worse.” (“US blames Russia's Wagner Group for worsening security in Mali,” France24, 27 October 2022)

At least 13 killed in military raid
On 1 November, BBC reported, at least 13 people were killed during a raid by the Malian army and a group which locals identified as Russia’s Wagner mercenary group on 30 October. Residents said the army and mercenaries targeted ethnic Fulanis, where a woman and child were among those killed during the attack in Guelledje village in the Mopti region. (“Raid by Mali army and 'mercenaries' kills 13,” BBC, 1 November 2022)

Thousands protest against Rwanda’s alleged support to M23 
On 31 October, thousands took to the streets of Goma to protest against Rwanda’s alleged support to M23 rebels following Kinshasa’s recalling of its interim acting ambassador in Kigali. Al Jazeera quoted a civil society representative from the protests: “We denounce the hypocrisy of the international community in the face of Rwanda’s aggression.” The development comes after M23 rebels took control of two towns along a highway leading to Goma. Previously, on 29 October, the Democratic Republic of the Congo ordered the Rwandan ambassador to Kinshasa to leave the country within 48 hours. (“Thousands join anti-Rwanda protests in DR Congo’s Goma,” Al Jazeera, 31 October 2022)

UN chief concerned over uptick in violence
On 31 October, a statement from the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern over the surge in violence in the east between government troops and M23 rebels. Guterres called for immediate de-escalation of violence and ensured continued support to the mediation. He urged the M23 to disarm unconditionally and respect the DRC’s sovereignty. On 29 October, two UN peacekeepers were injured during attacks in North Kivu. The UN Mission in the DRC, known as the MONUSCO, condemned the attack and outlined that they may amount to war crimes. (“DR Congo: Guterres ‘deeply concerned’ by resurgence of fighting between Government troops and M23,” UN News, 31 October 2022)

At least 11 killed in stampede at Martyr’s stadium
On 29 October, 11 people, including two police personnel were killed in a stampede at the Martyr’s stadium in Kinshasa where people had gathered for Fally Ipupa’s concert. The interior minister said the stadium had gone past the 100 per cent capacity and blamed the organisers for the casualties. Reuters reported that several people forced their way into the VIP section after the 80,000 seats were filled. Prior to the incident, security forces allegedly dispersed the crowd outside the stadium using teargas. (“Stampede at Fally Ipupa concert kills 11 in DRC’s capital,” Al Jazeera, 30 October 2022)

Police increase security amid terror attack warnings
On 28 October, the Nigerian police called on all “strategic police managers in charge of commands and tactical formations” to increase security, particularly in the Federal Capital Territory. The inspector general of police ordered the activation of all emergency numbers for “a 24/7 prompt response with combatant officers and men on standby.” The development came after the US, on the same day, asked family members of diplomats and non-emergency staff to leave from Abuja. (“Nigeria ups security as US orders diplomats’ families to leave,” Al Jazeera, 28 October 2022)

DRC orders Rwanda envoy to leave within 48 hours
On 29 October,the Democratic Republic of the Congo directed Rwanda’s ambassador to leave the country within 48 hours, on Kigali’s alleged support to the M23 rebels in DRC’s east. The decision came after the defence council met to discuss the capture of two towns by the rebels. The government spokesperson cited “a massive arrival of elements of the Rwandan element to support the M23 terrorists.” On 30 October, Rwanda accused DRC of scapegoating Kigali “to cover up and distract from their own governance and security failures.” (“DR Congo expels Rwandan ambassador as M23 rebels seize towns,” Al Jazeera, 30 October 2022)

Thousands displaced by flooding in central and west Africa
On 28 October, the UNHCR said that 3.4 million people are in need of assistance amid the flooding in west and central Africa. Currently, the floods have claimed over 600 lives in Nigeria and left 1.3 million displaced. Similarly, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso also witnessed above-average rainfall leading to the death and displacement of hundreds. The UNHCR spokesperson outlined the impact of climate change in the region and across Africa stating that the temperature in Sahel was increasing 1.5 times faster than the global average. The spokesperson further said that extreme weather across Africa had “killed hundreds and forced millions to flee their homes.” (“Millions face flooding threat across west and central Africa,” UN News, 28 October 2022)

UN Security Council voted for the resumption of peace negotiations in Western Sahara
On 28 October, the UN Security Council voted for the resumption of negotiations between parties to the disputed Western Sahara. The resolution called on the parties to resume negotiations "in good faith with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution." Thirteen countries in the 15-member council voted in favour of the resolution, while Kenya and Russia abstained. Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is disputed by Morocco and the Algerian backed Polisario Front. (“UN votes for Western Sahara talks to resume,” BBC, 28 October 2022)

About the authors
Apoorva Sudhakar is a Research Associate at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. Anu Maria Joseph is a Research Assistant at NIAS.

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