The United States said on Saturday that it is “deeply concerned” by the latest developments in Chad and has called for “a timely transition to a democratic and civilian-led government.”
“The United States is deeply concerned by the ad hoc commission report by Chad’s Inclusive and Sovereign National Dialogue released on September 28, 2022,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement from Washington, after the commission recommended that members of the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) be able to run as candidates in future post-transitional elections. It also recommended an extension of the transition period for 24 months and an expansion of mandate of the transitional council.
The recommendations are not final and remain up for discussion in an open-ended debate, and the United States said it intends to “closely follow the debate.”
“We have made our concerns known to the leadership of the Transitional Military Council, sharing our assessment that the commission’s recommendations constitute a monopoly of power in the incumbent executive branch which – if adopted – would jeopardize the democratic transition that was promised to the people of Chad,” Price said.
He added that the United States reaffirms its support for the principles outlined in the May 2021 Communique of the African Union Peace and Security Council, reiterated on September 19, 2022, which calls for members of the Transitional Military Council to abide by their commitment not to participate in democratic elections while working to ensure a civilian-led, inclusive and consensual transitional process in Chad, with clear separation of the roles and functions between the Transitional Government and the TMC.
“The United States urges an inclusive, peaceful, and timely transition to a democratic and civilian-led government. The United States supports the aspirations of the Chadian people to realize the first democratic transfer of power in the country’s history,” Price said.
Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno has been functioning as Chad’s head of state since leading a coup d’etat in April of 2021. Also known as General Kaka, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno is the head of Chad’s transitional council. He assumed this role after partaking in a coup d’etat shortly after the death of his father and longtime president Idriss Déby Itno.
Idriss Déby had been Chad’s President for over three decades until he was killed in action by rebels. The alleged function of the transitional government is to oversee a successful transition toward a free and fair democratic election. However, significant steps in this direction have yet to publicly take place and timelines have been postponed.
According to Chad’s constitution, if the President dies in office, the head of parliament is to be made Acting President until an early election is held. However, General Mahamat Déby and other leaders installed a military-led council and proclaimed that it would last for 18 months.
The constitution was also replaced by a new charter in order for Mahamat Deby to assume power. The transitional government promised that a national dialogue preparing for the next election would take place. While the dialogue was scheduled for February, it has yet to happen.
In the time since Mahamat Deby and the military council took power, Human Rights Watch reports that human rights violations have worsened.
In its 2022 report, Freedom House gave Chad an alarmingly low political rights score of just 1 out of 40, indicating a near complete lack of political freedom.
While Chad is one of the least free nations in the world, it is also one of the poorest. It ranks 187th out of 189 countries in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, indicating extreme widespread poverty.
“Mahamat Idriss Deby’s disregard for human rights sadly continues his father’s approach,” writes Human Rights Watch’s Director for Central Africa Lewis Mudge.
“Chad’s allies should speak to Mahamat Idriss Deby in a clear and unified voice. They should tell him that the military council; should reverse course, respect and protect Chadians’ right to peaceful protest, ensure that security forces implicated in rights violations are held accountable, speed up the transition to civilian rule, and allow for the organization of credible, free, and fair elections,” advises Mudge.
Mahamat Idriss Deby is incredibly young, born in 1984. He has been a part of the Chadian military for virtually his entire adult life. He rose very quickly through the ranks, earning himself a reputation as a battle-hardened leader and earning the high rank of Corps General.
In its national history, Chad has never had a democratic transition of power. Like his son, Idriss Deby came to power via military coup d’etat in 1990.
When asked whether he believed that his father would be proud of him, Mahamat Idriss Deby said via The Africa Report, “I believe so, yes. Proud of Chad, the Chadians and their army. Everything happened peacefully, as he would have wanted.”
As reported by numerous organizations, Mahamat Idriss Deby’s time as head of state has been hallmarked by human rights abuses including the “threatening and arresting dissidents and critics.”
While Chad’s path toward human rights and democratization has been stagnant for decades, the nation is at a crossroads. Facing an impactful time for the future of Chad and its people, the military transitional council has the ability to help oversee a peaceful and successful transition into a truly free and democratic election.
However, members of the international community warn that the longer this election is put off, the more likely it is that it will never take place and progress will not be made.