Chad: agreement for a national dialogue without major rebel groups

Chad: agreement for a national dialogue without major rebel groups

The head of the junta in Chad, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, signed on Monday in Qatar an agreement with about forty rebel factions on the opening of a national dialogue for peace on August 20 in N’Djamena, in which two major rebel groups refused to participate.

“This August 8 is a historic day for Chad and the Chadians,” Mahamat Idriss Déby said in Doha, welcoming an agreement that he said delivers the country from the “demons of fratricidal war” and “repairs the cracks of the past”.

The arrangement, which provides in particular for a “general ceasefire” between the authorities and the signatory groups, supposed to pave the way for the return to civilian rule, was described as a “key moment for the Chadian people” by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who spoke in a video broadcast during the official ceremony in Doha.

Mr Guterres nevertheless insisted that this dialogue must be “inclusive” in order to be successful.

For the past five months, various Chadian actors have been negotiating under the auspices of Qatar to put an end to decades of instability in this country of 16 million inhabitants, which has experienced several coups d’etat.

Chad, a member of the G5 Sahel, is considered a key partner in the anti-jihadist struggle waged in Central and West Africa by the West, starting with France, its former colonial power, which welcomed this agreement.

“The Doha agreement constitutes a major step towards the holding of the inclusive national dialogue that will soon open in N’Djamena between all the political and social forces of the country,” said a spokeswoman for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Chadian junta undertakes in the agreement to ensure the safety of members of the rebel groups so that they participate in the national dialogue.

The day after the death of President Idriss Déby Itno, killed at the front against rebels in April 2021, his son, the young general Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, had been proclaimed president at the head of a transitional military Council of 15 generals.

He immediately promised free and democratic elections within 18 months, after an “inclusive national dialogue” with the political opposition and the countless rebel movements.

– “Biased dialogue” –

But some rebel movements decided not to sign the agreement, starting with one of the main ones, the FACT, which was behind the attack that led to the death in April 2021 of Marshal Idriss Déby Itno, who had ruled Chad with an iron fist for 30 years.

The FACT denounced in a statement “the non-consideration of (its) demands”, such as the release of prisoners. But he also affirmed that he remained “available for dialogue everywhere and always”.

“The war does not solve anything, we want a peaceful and political settlement, but when we are forced to defend ourselves, we will defend ourselves,” FACT leader Mahamat Mahdi Ali told AFP. Remaining in the Libyan desert, he did not make the trip to Doha and denounced “a biased dialogue in advance”.

Several rebel groups that refused to sign the agreement, including FACT, criticized in a statement the “bad faith of the government delegation” and blamed “full responsibility” for this “failure” on “the ruling junta”. These armed groups are demanding, in particular, the ineligibility of members of the transition and a reform of the army, points not mentioned in the final agreement.

This agreement “does not solve the issue of the armed opposition, since some of the main groups have not signed,” Jérôme Tubiana, a French researcher specializing in Chad and its rebel groups, told AFP. “But this scenario was written in advance, since the government had chosen to dilute the weight of the four or five main groups in the middle of a much wider representation”.

The Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic (CCMSR), another important rebel group, also refused to sign the agreement, saying it did not want to “be part of a dialogue whose objectives we do not know”.

– “Good start” –

In total, 42 of the 47 groups represented in Doha signed their signatures on Monday alongside the government.

They thus undertake to participate in the national dialogue scheduled for N’Djamena on August 20 in the presence, according to the authorities, of more than 1,300 representatives, rebels and trade unions in particular.

“Having so many signatory groups is a good start for the national dialogue,” says the head of one of these groups on condition of anonymity, stressing that the agreement would however be “more fruitful” if it included the FACT.

The Doha agreement comes as General Mahamat Idriss Déby casts doubt on a postponement of the presidential election, scheduled for October if the transition is not extended, but Paris, the African Union and the European Union are pushing for him not to touch this deadline.

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