UPDATES FROM CHAD
Chad is far from returning to normal live in spite of the relative calm observed the country in the last few days. Families are burying their loved ones who were killed by police/military bullets during the violent public protests of April 24, 2021 aimed at rejecting the military junta which staged a coup after the death of late president Idriss Deby Itno. During these protests, at least nine people, mainly youngsters, lost their lives, defending democracy. Many were wounded and many others were arrested and are sitting in jail. The Jesuit Hospital in the city of Ndjamena received and treated dozens of wounded of which two subsequently died.
Late President Idriss Deby Itno who died on April 19, 2021 was buried in his village on April 23, 2021 after an official funeral ceremony attended by both national and international personalities who, for most, stressed his contribution to the fight against jihadists groups in the region. The international community, which has been very timid in condemning the dissolution of the constitutional order by the military junta in power now, seems to have preferred to sacrifice the aspiration of Chadians to democracy in favor of security concerns in a troubled Sahel region where Chad was and is still a key player in keeping djihadist groups at bay. France, in particular, has attracted fierce criticisms from the civil society in Chad for simply acknowledging the new undemocratic state of affairs in the country.
Late President Idriss Deby Itno would still be alive if Chad had been a democratic state. He died fighting not djihadist groups but rebels groups led by other Chadians tired of his long rule without social justice. He lost his life not defending the right to freedom but defending his power. Democracy saves lives. The nine young people being buried in Chad these days will still be alive if Chad was a democratic country. They died protesting against the very lack of democracy in their country now in the hands of a military junta headed by one of the sons of the deceased President. And who knows how many more will die before the return to the constitutional order which may not occur before the next thirty sixth months?
Indeed, the military junta upon grabbing power dissolved the constitution, the national assembly and the sitting government. They then replaced the constitution with an ad hoc Charta for the transition period and appointed a new (former) prime minister who has just released a new government, all this in a situation of legal informality. Mediators from the African Union have been talking to various stakeholders for the last few days but nothing has filtered from these conversations. Some are still hoping that at some point, the leader of the military junta will relinquish power in favour of a civilian rule. But it is highly unlikely.
In the government newly formed, there is ministry in charge of reconciliation and dialogue. I am guessing it will be its prime responsibility to organize the Inclusive National Dialogue that most Chadian are calling for to reestablish democratic institutions and launch a new era in the country. Indeed, in his first speech to the nation, the head of the military junta reassured Chadians that he is committed to holding the national dialogue and to ensuring that the country is democratically back on its feet. The future of peace in Chad depends indeed on the good faith of military junta and on the success of the inclusive national dialogue, meaning its ability to lead to the reestablishment of democratic institutions culminating in free and fair elections.
We, at the Centre d’Etude et de Formation pour le Développement (CEFOD), the social center run by the Jesuit in Ndjamena, also think that dialogue and reconciliation, if genuine, are the only way out of the crisis. We are currently exploring ways of organizing a series of conversations/talks involving various stakeholders to prepare the minds and spirits for an inclusive dialogue which effectively listen to voices from the grassroots. In the meantime, major civil society organizations are calling for another round of protests next Saturday May 04th, 2021, with the risk of losing many more lives to plain bullets. Only the return to democracy will spare lives in Chad.
Ludovic Lado SJ
JENA works towards a just, poverty-free and
ecologically regenerative Africa where people can unlock their full potential, free from direct, cultural, and structural violence.