Chad protests record fatalities

At least five people have been killed in Chad as demonstrators took to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule after the military took control following President Idriss Deby’s death last week.

“There were four deaths in N’Djamena,” including “one killed by the demonstrators”, the capital’s prosecutor Youssouf  Tom was quoted as saying by AFP news agency yesterday. One person was killed in the country’s second city Moundou, 400km (250 miles) to the south, another prosecutor said.

However, a local NGO reported nine fatalities – seven in the capital and two in the south. The Chadian Convention for the Defence of Human Rights said 36 people were also wounded and about 12 arrested.

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“We denounce and condemn this massacre and the disproportionate use of weapons of war against protesters,” it said.

Tuesday’s unrest underscores the tense atmosphere in Chad following Deby’s death, with the military transition already struggling to win over a population exhausted by 30 years of monolithic rule.

The ruling military council said on April 20 it had taken power after Deby succumbed to wounds sustained on the frontlines in the country’s north, where the Chadian army was fighting advancing rebels. The council, headed by Deby’s son Mahamat Idriss Deby, who was declared president, has said it will oversee an 18-month transition to elections.

After the violent protests on Tuesday, Mahamat Deby promised an “inclusive national dialogue” and also pledged to “fight terrorism and respect all its international obligations”.

A spokesman for the council said security forces were attempting to contain the protesters while limiting material damage.

Police were deployed in Ndjamena to break up the planned demonstrations called by the opposition and civil society groups. They reportedly used tear gas in the capital to disperse small groups of demonstrators, some of whom burned tyres.

“We do not want our country to become a monarchy,” said 34-year-old protester Mbaidiguim Marabel. “The military must return to the barracks to make way for a civil transition.”

Some opposition politicians have called the military takeover a coup and asked supporters to protest, even as the army on Monday appointed a civilian politician, Albert Pahimi Padacke, as prime minister of a transitional government.

The military council had banned protests, saying in a statement on Monday more demonstrations that could lead to disorder, while the country was still in mourning.

Trucks loaded with soldiers were seen patrolling the streets around central Ndjamena. “The police came, they fired tear gas, but we are not scared,” said Timothy Betouge, age 70.

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned “with the greatest firmness the repression of demonstrations and the violence that took place this morning in Ndjamena”.

France has been a key ally in Chad’s battle against a revolt that has swept across the Sahel, though Macron has said he intends to eventually reduce the 5,100-strong Barkhane force Paris has deployed in the region for nearly a decade.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Pix – Mahamat Idriss Deby was declared president after his father was killed during a visit to the front lines of the battle against rebels

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