The next two months could be the defining moment for Chadians when the country ushers in a new political era when the term of a transition government comes to an end.
October this year will mark 18 months since the death of President Idriss Déby Itno on a battlefield. It will also mark the end of a transitional period during which a junta known as the Transitional Military Council (CMT) headed by Déby’s son Mahamat.
But after October, the peace-building he has led could come to a test since his father’s death on April 19, 2021.
The opposition parties, civil society and even the rebel groups, including the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), the group whose offensive was responsible for Idriss Déby’s death have been meeting for talks sponsored by Qatar since March. The leader promised not to “sidestep any national issue.”
The actual peace talks among Chadians are scheduled to begin on August 20, 2022, in Doha, Qatar. But since July 16, rebel groups, commonly known as politico-military groups, have announced the suspension of their participation in the talks with the CMT. The military groups claim they want to “give peace a real chance and start afresh.”
They say the suspension is the result of a series of “dysfunctions and various manipulations” noted on several occasions in correspondence addressed to the mediation team and “which have remained without follow-up.”
In fact, the politico-military groups denounce in particular the “unilateral” choice of August 2022, the “destabilisation manoeuvres, namely: Buying people’s consciences, intimidation, harassment, threats and disinformation,” which, according to them, aim to “disturb” the serenity of the negotiations.
The armed groups also accuse the government delegation of “interfering” in the mediation. They also denounce “the creation of new government-affiliated movements in Doha”, they say.
The armed groups claim that the government is not in Doha with “sincerity” to reach a peace agreement but to obtain some legitimacy at national and international level.
For now, it is unclear whether this will influence the continuation of talks. Jean-Bernard Padaré, spokesperson for the Mouvement patriotique du salut (MPS) party, said that this decision “will not have an impact on the date that has been decided.” Like the armed groups, the opposition parties are opposed to the way in which the political transition is being conducted in the country and contest the very conditions of this dialogue.
In a communiqué signed on July 19, the opposition parties accused the ruling junta of wanting to conduct the dialogue with the sole aim of retaining power. The communiqué questions the sincerity of the Transitional Military Council, which did not want to consecrate the sovereign nature of the dialogue, as Mahamat Idriss Déby promised in his speech to the nation on December 31, 2021.
The opponents say “as long as the conditions for a fair and balanced participation are not met,” the dialogue scheduled to start on 20 August should not be held. The opposition parties have requested the involvement of the African Union in the matter.
“We hope that our continental organisation will not take the historic responsibility of seeing the situation in Chad break down without taking action,” they wrote in an open letter to the African Union. Differing views in Chad by the very stakeholders could pose a risk to the peace talks. Last week, Chad’s leaders recalled 600 soldiers engaged in the Sahel counter-terrorism programme on the borders of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. The CMT also purchased 60 armoured vehicles recently. These moves are seen as a preparation for war by the ruling military junta.
The historical opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo, leader of the National Union for Development and Renewal, accuses the junta of plotting to cling to power.
“When the president of the CMT suggests that if the two conditions were not met, we should expect an extension, he has already said so, so we are warned,” he said this week, referring to conditions under which CMT will exit power; a declaration from dialogue and elections.
“It was the international community that forced us from the start to go to 18 months and no more.”