A constitutional referendum in Chad for an end to military rule promised in 2024

Chadians will vote on Sunday December 17 in a referendum on a new Constitution, a step towards elections promised then postponed by a junta in power since 2021

A constitutional referendum in Chad for an end to military rule promised in 2024

Chadians will vote on Sunday December 17 in a referendum on a new Constitution, a step towards elections promised then postponed by a junta in power since 2021. But for the opposition, the vote instead hides a plebiscite for General President Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno .

The yes vote seems certain to win: the government is leading a big-money campaign which is crushing that of the no vote and it can count on the rallying of one of the main opponents until then, Succès Masra, in the face of a divided and targeted opposition. of violent repression for more than a year.

In N'Djamena, posters cover the walls in favor of a Constitution for a "unitary and decentralized state", which does not really differ from the one that the military repealed in 2021, consecrating a regime where the head of state concentrates most of the power. A fringe of the opposition favoring federalism instead.

“Deby Dynasty”

But the two main platforms of parties hostile to the junta are calling for a boycott and sticking up, where they can, “Stop the referendum” posters crossed out with a large red cross. They hope that low participation will delegitimize a general whom they accuse of perpetuating a thirty-three-year “Déby dynasty”. Like the Wakit Tamma coalition, whose executives have fled into exile from ruthless repression since 2022.

At 37, Mahamat Déby was proclaimed by the army on April 20, 2021, transitional president at the head of a junta of fifteen generals, following the death of his father Idriss Déby Itno, killed by rebels on his way to the front. . He had ruled this Central African state, the second least developed country in the world according to the UN, with an iron fist for more than thirty years.

Mahamat Déby immediately promised to return power to civilians through elections after an eighteen-month transition and made a commitment to the African Union not to run. Eighteen months later, his regime extended the transition by two years and allowed him to be a candidate in the presidential election scheduled for the end of 2024.

“Those who are campaigning for no and for yes are the same, they shared the money (…). The result is already known, the yes will pass,” Badono Daigou, a leader of the other opposition platform, GCAP, proclaimed in a meeting on Sunday. The unitary state is the only way to preserve unity, federalism would promote “separatism” and “chaos”, argues the yes camp.

“We are calling on people to stay at home on Sunday,” explains Max Loalngar, coordinator of Wakit Tamma, on the phone with AFP from a country he does not wish to name, where he fled after a repressed demonstration in a bath of blood on October 20, 2022.

Opposition suppressed

That day, between 100 and more than 300 young men and adolescents were shot and killed in N’Djamena by police and soldiers, according to the opposition and national and international NGOs. They were peacefully demonstrating against the two-year extension of the transition. More than a thousand were imprisoned before being pardoned, or even went missing according to NGOs and the opposition. Most were supporters of Succès Masra. However, at the end of October, this young emblematic figure of the opposition to Déby father and son signed a reconciliation agreement with the government and returned from exile. He calls for a yes vote on Sunday.

Since this “Black Thursday” of 2022, demonstrations have been systematically banned. And during the referendum campaign, opposition rallies were the target of harassment. On December 7, police and soldiers tore off the red crosses from all the vehicles of a campaign caravan, which was then dispersed with tear gas.

The official results will be announced on December 28, according to the government schedule. “I am not going to vote because the results are known in advance, everything is in place for the yes vote to pass,” says Issa, a civil servant from N’Djamena who refuses to give his name for fear of reprisals. “I will vote yes because the unitary state is the choice of the majority of Chadians to preserve unity,” retorts Mahamat Saleh, “economic operator.”

This referendum “is to vote for (…) the authorities, it aims to purely and simply legitimize the dynasty that they would like to impose on us,” insists Max Loalngar. “For there to be any legitimacy, opposition parties and their activists must feel free to meet and campaign. Otherwise, the referendum risks being perceived as a means of transforming the transitional government into a permanent government,” the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimated in October.