Chad: one year after the death of Idriss Déby, a still uncertain transition

A year ago, the Chadian army announced the death of Idriss Déby, killed at the front in fighting against rebels. A military council led by his son Mahamat Idriss Déby then took power and promised a democratic transition… which now seems to be bogged down. On April 20, 2021, a page turns in Chad. The radio-television announces the death of Idriss Déby, leader of the country for 30 years, killed at the front by rebels. At the head of a transitional military council, the president’s son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, then took power for a period of 18 months and promised to organize elections. However, the “national reconciliation dialogue”, supposed to allow this return to democratic order, has since been delayed. As negotiations between the Chadian rebels and the military government stall, Qatar launched mediation on March 13 to try to find common ground. Military coup A year ago, during his first speech as president, Mahamat Idriss Déby, only 37 years old, tried to reassure the population. “The Transitional Military Council has no ambition to govern the country alone,” he said, looking shy, his eyes glued to his notes. While it falls, according to the Constitution, to the President of the National Assembly to ensure the transition until new elections in the event of the death of the President, the Military Council led by his son has taken power and dissolved the institutions . To justify this manoeuvre, the junta claims that the president of the National Assembly refused to replace Idriss Déby. The opposition denounces, for its part, a coup d’etat and demonstrates in the street. The unexpected death of Idriss Déby is causing serious concern among N’Djamena’s allies. Because the country is a pillar of the G5 Sahel, the regional counter-terrorism mission bringing together – in addition to Chad – Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.” Of these five countries, only two armies are fully operational, those of the Mauritania and Chad”, explained to France 24 last February Thierry Vircoulon, associate researcher at the Sub-Saharan Africa Center of the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri), pointing to a problem of endemic corruption within the armed forces of the region. While in Mali, the putschist military, in power since August 2020, is facing significant regional and international pressure, N’Djamena’s allies are much less critical of the new Chadian authorities. France, like the leaders of the G5 Sahel, present at the funeral of Idriss Déby, are betting on continuity, providing their “common support for the civil-military transition process” led by Mahamat Idri ss Deby. #France and the #G5Sahel countries, which together fight the jihadists in this region, expressed their “common support for the civil-military transition process” for the son of Chadian President #IdrissDéby Itno killed by rebels, announced the presidency French #AFP— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) April 23, 2021 Possible extension of the transitionSince coming to power, Chad’s new leader has initiated several reforms to facilitate dialogue with the forces opposition, such as the lifting of the ban on demonstrations as well as two general amnesty laws for Chadian rebels and opponents. But from the start, the transition process suffers from many delays. If a civilian government is quickly formed, at the end of April 2021, it will take five more months for the National Transitional Council (CNT), the provisional Parliament supposed to oversee the return to constitutional order, to be set up. While the African Union has demanded the holding of a presidential election within eighteen months and the guarantee that the members of the Military Council will not present themselves there, Mahamat Idriss Déby affirms as of June not to exclude a extension of this period. To date, he also maintains the vagueness as to his possible participation in the future election. A risky inclusive national dialogueAs for the inclusive national dialogue, it is still waiting to see the light of day, now scheduled for May 10 after being postponed several times. Since March 13, a so-called “pre-dialogue” mediation has been taking place in Qatar, bringing together government representatives and more than 250 opponents from around fifty rebel groups. So far, these groups refuse any direct negotiation with the transitional authorities and exchange through their Qatari intermediary. At the beginning of the month, one of these groups – the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic ) – slammed the door, accusing the government of inviting bogus opponents to Doha to “drown out” their claims and impose a deal to its advantage. At the same time, the main platform of the Chadian opposition has also announced the suspension of all negotiations with the authorities. For their part, the transitional authorities affirm that it is essential to include a maximum of participants to achieve the most inclusive dialogue possible. “These negotiations are very difficult because the Chadian army is a praetorian army which governs all aspects of society and has been widely used in the past to fight against the opposition and muzzle freedoms”, underlines Jean-Claude Felix-Tchicaya , expert on the Sahel and researcher at the Institute for Prospective and Security in Europe (Ipse). “Furthermore, the plan to negotiate with ‘all’ armed groups poses the risk of legitimizing some of these entities, sometimes accused of serious abuses, and could allow them to claim a political role within the institutions. Among these different actors, it is very difficult for civil and political society, whose involvement is nevertheless crucial, to make itself heard.” Three weeks before the official start of negotiations in Chad, the account is not there for the opposition forces in Doha. In addition to security guarantees to participate in the inclusive national dialogue, many of them are demanding from Mahamat Idriss Déby a clear commitment that he will not stand in the upcoming elections.