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Chad at Crossroads: Mass Opposition Arrests Show Closing Political Space Ahead of Referendum

Despite the upcoming referendum in Chad, the opposition in the landlocked Sahelian country still faces arrest, intimidation, and threats even one year from the bloody repression of protest against military rule.

Following the death of Chad’s long-time leader Idriss Déby Itno in April 2021, his son, young and at that time three-star general, Mahamat Idriss Deby, was proclaimed president by the army. Now, a constitutional referendum is scheduled for 17 December, which is due to set the stage for “free” elections and a return to civilian rule. Deby had initially pledged elections would be held within 18 months of his takeover, but last October, he pushed that back two more years. Thousands of Chadians poured out onto the streets in protest, with at least 50 protestors having died under police and army gunfire, according to figure released by the junta.

However, the opposition and NGOs said the true figure from police and army gunfire was far higher. Hundreds of youth and opposition figures were arrested, although some managed to flee abroad. Now, fast forward one year and 72 young activists have recently been arrested at the headquarters of the Les Transformateurs political party and were since detained at a secret location.

“We, the demonstrators from 20 October (2022), we are living with the fear in our hearts of being arrested or kidnapped,” said Djimrangar Ngueto, who runs an association for the victims of ‘Black Thursday’. “Nothing has changed for a year, the rulers have even clenched the hand they claimed to be holding out,” Ngueto added. Any rally or demonstration has been systematically banned by the military authorities. “Chad’s transitional government should respect basic principles of political plurality as it prepares the ground for a new constitution,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Source: The North Africa Post