Chadian opposition sceptical of junta’s inclusive gestures

Perhaps the most interesting appointment of a former rebel leader to hold the newly-created protfolio of national reconciliation.

Tuesday 04/05/2021
Success Masra, the president of Chadian opposition pary The Transformers speaks after a meeting with representatives of the African Union mission on May 3, 2021 in N’djamena. (AFP)

N’DJAMENA -  While one leading Chadian opposition figure has dismissed the government appointed Sunday by the Transitional Military Council headed by Mahamat Idriss Deby, the 37-year-old son of the slain president Idriss Deby Itno, another has appeared to back the new dispensation, in return for two ministries for his party.

Opposition leader Succes Masra rejected the 40 ministers and deputies saying  “It gives the impression of a house being built starting with the roof… This will not go far as long as we do not return to the foundations desired by the people: a civilian president, a (military) vice-president” he told Reuters.

However, fellow opposition figure Saleh Kebzabo, who had earlier joined other opposition leaders in denouncing what they called a “coup” by the generals, has now said that he “recognises” the Transitional Military Council which has pledged to hold elections within 36 months at the latest.

Junta spokesman Azem Bermandoa Agouna said that two members of Kebzabo’s National Union for Democracy and Renewal are in the cabinet, though Kebzabo himself has not been given a portfolio.  Another opposition figure Mahamat Ahmat Alhabo has been made minister of justice.

Perhaps the most interesting appointment is to a newly-created ministry of national reconciliation. The job has been given to Acheick Ibn Oumar, a restless former rebel chief who became a diplomatic adviser to the presidency in 2019. Having been backed intermittently in the 1980’s by Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi to lead a rebellion against Chad’s then president Hissène Habré, the French-trained mathematician Oumar changed sides and was made Habré’s foreign minister. For a year from 1991 he was a special adviser to Idriss Deby before spending another year as ambassador to the UN and the United States, being replaced in 1993.

In 1999 he formed the Comité politique d’action et de liaison (CPAL) which he left seven years later to join the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development where he only stayed  a year before joining the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development–Fundamental with which in 2009, he took part in the failed rebellion led by Idriss Deby’s nephew, Timane Erimi.

Despite the junta’s attempt to include dissident voices their appointed government led by the president’s ally, Albert Pahimi Padacke,  most opposition figures have scorned the military’s pledge by the to restore democracy in Chad within 18 months, which the junta has warned might be extended by a further year and a half.

Earlier Sunday, the government announced the lifting of an overnight curfew introduced after Deby’s death.

The army said Deby died from wounds sustained in fighting with rebel forces in the north of the poor Sahel country last month.

Tensions remain high in the country, with the military saying that six people were killed last week during demonstrations in the capital N’Djamena and the south against the formation of the junta.

A local aid group has put the death toll at nine. More than 650 people were arrested during the protests, which had been banned by the authorities.

The military has said that Deby died during fighting with rebels from the Libya-based Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), who had launched an election day offensive on April 11.

The announcement of Deby’s death came only a day after he was proclaimed winner of the presidential election, handing him a sixth term in office after three decades of iron-fisted rule in the former French colony.