Nothing set in stone

Chad: Timan Erdimi, Mahamat Nouri… Who will participate in talks with Mahamat Déby?

By Jeune Afrique

Posted on September 15, 2021 08:47

Firefox_Screenshot_2021-09-13T11-58-54.464Z © Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby in N’Djamena on 11 June. Vincent Fournier for JA
Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby in N’Djamena on 11 June. Vincent Fournier for JA

A series of negotiations has taken place to decide whether politico-military groups will be allowed to participate in Chad’s future national dialogue.

On 6 September, a delegation claiming to be from the Union des Forces de la Résistance (UFR) met with Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, president of the transition government, in N’Djamena. Led by Mahamat Abdelkerim Hanno and Mahamat Doki Warou, former political advisers of the movement, they assured the head of state that members were ready for the upcoming inclusive national dialogue, which is due to be held before the end of the year.

According to our sources, the UFR’s leader, Timan Erdimi (nephew of the late Idriss Déby Itno), who is in exile in Qatar – does not recognise this delegation’s authority. He asserts that it was brought together by Hanno, who distanced himself from the UFR more than a year ago. “This gentleman has gathered compatriots from the diaspora, malleable and easily influenced, to make his own publicity,” he says.

No contact with his cousin

For now, the Erdimi wing of the UFR has closed the door to participating in the national dialogue, which is being organised by the transition government and will be held in N’Djamena. The party leader says he will speak directly with him once the new Chadian government has organised a delegation to Doha, where he lives under surveillance. However, no direct contact has yet been made between him and his cousin Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno’s staff.

Erdimi also claims that he was not involved in the discussions that took place in Lomé under the auspices of President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé and Robert Dussey, his foreign minister. The latter led negotiations in liaison with the Chadian presidency to help facilitate participation of politico-military groups in the national dialogue.

Seven meetings have already taken place in the Togolese capital between the delegations of nine rebel groups – including the UFR (which Erdimi does not recognise); Mahamat Mahdi Ali’s Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad; the Conseil de Commandement Militaire pour le Salut de la République (CCMSR) and the Front de la Nation pour la Démocratie et la Justice au Tchad (FNDJT).

Goukouni Weddeye on board

According to our sources, the discussions should progress further, thanks to the arrival of former Chadian President Goukouni Weddeye, who was appointed to head the technical committee in charge of discussing possible participation of the rebels in the dialogue.

Composed of high-ranking members of the former regime – including 11 generals – and loyalists of the transition government’s current president, this 29-member team is preparing to send small delegations to the main rebel components abroad. Their first stop may be Cameroon, but an internal source assured us that the calendar has not yet been fully fixed.

Former general and minister Mahamat Nouri’s Union des Forces pour la Démocratie et le Développement (UFDD) says it is open to dialogue, but one of its conditions is that the Chadian state [grant absolution] former president Hissène Habré, who died in Senegal on 24 August. The FACT, which was responsible for the last rebel offensive that cost Idriss Déby Itno his life, has demanded a general amnesty law.

As for the UFR, Erdimi believes that an official summit bringing together the transitional authorities and the politico-military groups should take place before the upcoming inclusive national dialogue.

“How would you like to put humanitarian workers, trade unions, politicians from the interior and armed men in exile side by side? We do not have the same perceptions of the situation and we do not use the same language,” he tells us. The late Idriss Déby Itno’s nephew wants this meeting to take place in Doha. He also said he is open to a preparatory meeting with former president Weddeye.

Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno in Qatar

In the eventual negotiations regarding his place of residence in Qatar, Erdimi’s own situation will be discussed. The UFR leader – who has been in supervised exile in a Doha hotel since 2009, after an agreement was reached between Idriss Déby Itno and Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir – could demand amnesty and that his freedom of movement, as well as that of his twin brother Tom Erdimi, be restored.

Discussions are underway in N’Djamena with Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno about Erdimi’s case. According to our information, the president of the transition government is in favour of giving Erdimi amnesty and would like him to benefit from the law that his father and predecessor passed in 2009. Furthermore, he had planned to go to Qatar during the week of 13 September and may use the opportunity to further advance this issue.

Former President Déby Itno’s two nephews were sentenced to death in absentia in 2008 for participating in an attempt to overthrow the government in 2005. Tom Erdimi, who until recently lived in exile in Houston, USA, is still missing. People close to him believe that he was arrested in Egypt in September 2020 while visiting Cairo, where some of his family live and where he had filed an asylum application, which is still being examined.

They add that he was being held in an Egyptian intelligence prison and their last contact with him was in early November 2020. However, part of the family, which accuses the Chadian authorities – and in particular the National Security Agency – of instigating this arrest, claims (without proof) that Tom Erdimi was secretly extradited to Chad. His twin brother believes that he is still in Egypt. As for the Chadian authorities, they assert that they had nothing to do with the arrest and formally deny that any extradition took place.

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