N’DJAMENA: Fifty dead, the activities of major opposition political parties suspended and a curfew: demonstrations on Thursday in Chad against the extension of the transition period and the maintenance in power of Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno have led to an unleashing of violence for several hours.
Several demonstrations, among the deadliest in the country’s history, took place in different cities, notably in the capital N’Djamena and in Moundou, the country’s second city. They left “about fifty” dead and “more than 300” injured, according to Prime Minister Saleh Kebzabo.
Several calls to demonstrate had been launched since the beginning of the week, in particular by the opposition platform Wakit Tamma and the party Les Transformateurs, led by Success Masra, one of the main political opponents of Mr. Déby.
These two parties had boycotted the National Reconciliation Dialogue (DNIS), which had extended the transition to “free and democratic” elections by two years in early October and endorsed the possibility for Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno to run there, 18 months after seized power at the head of a military junta.
The Prime Minister announced the suspension of “all public activity of political parties and civil society organizations”, including those of the Transformers parties, the Socialist Party without Borders and Wakit Tamma, a collective of opposition parties and associations of civil society.
Contacted by AFP, the leaders of the “suspended” political parties did not react immediately.
The Prime Minister also announced at a press conference a curfew from “6 p.m. to 6 a.m.”, which will last until the “total restoration of order” in N’Djamena, Moundou, Doba and in Koumra”.
Early in the morning in N’Djamena and despite the ban on the demonstration by the authorities on Wednesday, the demonstrators “attacked public buildings, the governorate, the headquarters of the Prime Minister’s party, that of the President of the National Assembly” in a climate of “insurgency”, government spokesman Aziz Mahamat Saleh told AFP.
At midday the government said that “ten” members of the security forces had been killed in the clashes.
Clouds of black smoke were visible and tear gas shots were regularly heard, while barricades had been erected in several neighborhoods and tires burned on the main roads of the capital, according to AFP journalists in N ‘Djamena, who noticed a brief lull in the early afternoon.
“I went out to demonstrate to denounce this facade dialogue to perpetuate a system and demand a change of power. In 31 years, we have not seen any positive change in our country,” Abass Mahamat, 35, told AFP. year.
The president of the Union of Journalists of Chad, Abbas Mahmoud Tahir, called for an “investigation to establish responsibilities” concerning the death of a young journalist, Narcisse Oredje, whose death was confirmed to AFP by a member from his family.
The young man was hit by a “stray bullet” in the abdomen in the courtyard of his home in N’Djamena, while he was not performing his duties, it was specified from same source. His death sparked many messages of solidarity on social networks.
In Moundou, the country’s second city some 500 kilometers south of the capital, the “very violent” demonstrations began “from 5 a.m.”, assured AFP a senior administrative official on condition of anonymity, who said to have recorded “significant material damage”.
The United Nations deplored “the use of lethal force against demonstrators”, adding that “the transitional authorities must guarantee security and the protection of human rights”. “Reported violations must be investigated,” the UN Human Rights Office said in a tweet.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, tweeted “strongly condemned” the repression of the demonstrations, calling on “the parties to respect human lives and property” and to “prioritize peaceful ways to to overcome the crisis”.
France, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also “condemned” the “violence, including the use of lethal weapons against demonstrators”, affirming that Paris plays “no role in these events”.
This precision of the Quai d’Orsay also refers to the anti-French feeling which is developing in the region, fueled in particular by Russian interests.
Lewis Mudge, director for Central Africa at Human Rights Watch, a human rights NGO, called for an “impartial investigation” to “determine responsibility and to ensure that force is only used as a last resort”.
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