Chad: Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno is in pre-campaign mode

By Mathieu Olivier

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Posted on June 7, 2023 09:39

 Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno in Doba, Logone-Oriental, on 5 June 2023. ©Chadian Presidency
Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno in Doba, Logone-Oriental, on 5 June 2023. ©Chadian Presidency

On 5 June, the president of Chad’s transitional government began a tour of the southern regions. With the presidential election in his sights, he’s hoping to ease the tensions arising from the October 2022 protests and the recent attacks by armed groups.

After visiting the northern provinces, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno has begun another series of trips, this time to the south. On 5 June, the Chadian head of state headed for Logone-Oriental and its capital, Doba. He was welcomed by the governor, General Ahmat Dary Bazine. He then reviewed the troops stationed in the town before meeting a number of local traditional and religious leaders.

Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno’s aim: to silence the criticism that has been levelled at him for weeks following several attacks by armed groups that have plunged the province into mourning

Political response needed

“The aim is to show the people of the south that the state and its leader are there for them,” says a presidential advisor. “For several weeks, they have been the victims of attacks by armed groups from abroad, and the army has been deployed. But a political response is also needed”.

On 8 May, armed men attacked the village of Don in Logone-Oriental, killing 17 people. The leader of the Kabba community – to which the victims, Christian farmers, belonged – immediately denounced the “cowardly, barbaric and despicable acts” perpetrated “under the powerless and complicit gaze of the authorities”. The opposition also took up the issue, with Succès Masrad describing “targeted massacres” of Christian populations, while Théophile Bongoro said that the state was “overwhelmed by the events”.

In Doba, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno took the floor to revisit these events, and to prevent leaving the field open to his political opponents. Denouncing the “inhuman, barbaric and despicable” acts, he said that “evil forces” were at work, with “the ambition of plunging Chad back into the abyss […] and [into] regional, religious and communal divisions”. He also announced tighter border controls and the opening of an enquiry to determine the administration’s failings.

‘Idriss Déby is pre-campaigning’

The head of state plans to visit six other provinces in the south, including Moundou, the country’s second-largest city. It has a reputation for being pro-opposition and willing to rebel against a government it considers to have been hijacked by the people of the north and was the scene of large-scale demonstrations on 20 October 2022. After these events, the bishop of Moundou blamed the president for the “massacre” of “citizens [who had] gone out to demonstrate their discontent with injustice and the desire to maintain power”.

The transition is the ideal springboard for his future candidacy.

“We need to heal the wounds of 20 October 2022 and respond to the secessionist and inflammatory rhetoric of the opposition,” says the presidential advisor.

“Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno is pre-campaigning, with a view to the constitutional referendum and, above all, the 2024 presidential election,” says a former minister. “The president wants to give himself national stature [thanks to] the transition. It’s the ideal springboard for his future candidacy.”

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