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In Chad, after the repression of October 20, 342 demonstrators sentenced and a junta under pressure

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The N'Djamena High Court, December 5, 2022.

The number of people tried, like the place and the conditions of this trial, indicated the intention of the N’Djamena authorities to set an example. After four days of hearings behind closed doors in a high security prison built in the middle of the desert, without the presence of defense lawyers – on strike to refuse to endorse this “parody of justice” – and under the gaze of state television alone, Chadian justice sentenced, on Friday December 2, 342 of the 401 people arrested in connection with the demonstrations of October 20 and then transferred to Koro Toro.

Read also: In Chad, a month after bloody demonstrations, “the manhunt continues”, say opponents

Due to the remoteness of this “penal colony” (600 km northeast of the capital), renowned if only for the harsh climatic conditions, the information was not made public until Monday by the prosecutor. of the Republic. The sentences handed down, in particular for “violence and assault”, “destruction of property” and “disturbing public order”, range from two to three years in prison for 262 defendants, while 80 others were sentenced with reprieve.

While defense lawyers have already announced their intention to appeal, the approximately 80 minors rounded up during or after the demonstrations which shook the capital and several provincial towns have been brought back to N’Djamena, after more than a month preventive detention, to be presented to judges for children, according to the prosecution. If reshuffles have since been made in the security apparatus, no prosecution has however been launched against the agents of the police or their officials involved in the repression.

Success opponent Masra exiled to the United States

Since the evening of October 20 and the recognition by the government that the day of protest fever had caused “about fifty dead”including a dozen police or gendarmes, and “nearly 300 injured”, organizers of the demonstration and the government have engaged in a struggle involving legal, diplomatic and communication actions. The main challenge is to discredit the other camp by making it bear the responsibility for the killing – and thus disqualify it from the next elections.

Despite the condemnations of the African Union, the European Union or the United States, Mahamat Déby had from October 24 maintained that these marches were in fact a carefully planned insurgency to create chaos in the country,” pointing “the manifest desire to start a civil war” with “the support of foreign powers”. The latter are not named, but in the sights of the transitional president are the civil society platform Wakit Tama, the opponent Yaya Dillo, who has important family networks in the army, and especially the one who today he main rival on the political scene today is the leader of the Transformers, Succès Masra. After suspending the activities of these parties, some in power are considering a firm judicial condemnation of their leaders, thus excluding them from the electoral game.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In Chad, the opponent Succès Masra seizes the ICC after the repression of October 20

Threatened locally, Succès Masra has therefore chosen to bring its response to the international scene. As revealed The world, after leaving the country, the latter transmitted on November 9 to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) a request for the opening of an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity. Rejecting the twenty-four-month extension of the transition and even more the permission finally offered to Mahamat Déby to compete in the future presidential election, Succès Masra accuses the power in place of “to create the conditions for a civil war to impose his plan of dynastic succession for the benefit of a clan branch of the army”. Now exiled to the United States, the opponent is trying to influence Washington’s support for N’Djamena.

Worried about these steps, the transitional government sent the ministers of justice and communication in November to plead its case in Geneva before the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, then in The Hague before the prosecutor of the ICC.

A reversal that embarrasses Doha and Paris

The hopes of openness raised after the death of Idriss Déby, in April 2021, then by the national dialogue which was held between August and October, now seem extinguished. If Mahamat Déby was able to surround himself with opposition figures, such as the current Prime Minister Saleh Kebzabo, and bring back to the country figures from past rebellions, replaced in the state apparatus, “He remains a prisoner of the system that brought him to his head”, judges a source in the Chadian presidency.

According to President Mahamat Déby’s entourage, his candidacy for the next election there is little doubt

Keystone of a militarized regime where the Zaghawa community remains prevalent, the 38-year-old general, heir to his father, has already reneged on his initial promise to cede power after eighteen months of transition. According to those around him, his candidacy for the next election is hardly in doubt. But this reversal embarrasses Qatar, facilitator of the discussions between the power and the rebel groups, just like France, first diplomatic support of N’Djamena, its ally in the fight against the jihadist groups in the Sahel and host of a base of the ‘French army.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers “Mahamat Déby must make a choice: adopt the same brutal regime as his father or bring Chad back to the path of democracy”

“Mahamat Déby reacted very badly to the message from the Emir of Qatar inviting him not to appear at the end of the transition, especially since Paris and Washington are in phase on this point, recounts a personality familiar with the behind-the-scenes negotiations. But behind all this communication, the reality is there: if he does not succeed in consolidating his power through reconciliation rather than repression, he is not sure that his own clan, which does not want to see its future compromised by lawsuits, supports it. »

For France, the equation is complex. “Chad is a particular country in a conflict environment where the Russians are beginning to invite each other and while an anti-French feeling is developingcontinues the same source. Paris remains very cautious, but this situation is embarrassing. Because if the Chadian soldiers can stay in power, how can we tell the putschists in Mali, Guinea or Burkina Faso not to do the same? »