Middle East

Chad peace talks to be signed without key rebel group

#Chad #peace #talks #signed #key #rebel #group

Chad’s military leader is set to sign a deal with more than 40 opposition groups on Monday to start national peace talks, but the Central African country’s main rebel group has refused to take part.

Under the deal, which is due to be signed in the Qatari capital Doha, talks are set to begin on August 20, aimed at paving the way for presidential elections.

Since March, Qatar has been mediating between opposition groups and the military government of Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, a general who seized power after his father died in a fight with rebels last year.

But the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), the main rebel group, said it would not sign the deal despite last-minute efforts by Qatari mediators.

In a statement released in Doha, FACT said it “rejects the deal that will be presented to signatories on Monday.”

She added that participants in the national dialogue were not treated equally and called for the establishment of a new committee to organize the talks and the release of rebel prisoners in government prisons.

“However, FACT remains available for dialogue anywhere, anytime,” added the statement from the group, which is estimated to have between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters.

FACT fighters led the rebel offensive that killed Deby’s father, Idriss Deby Itno, who was president for 30 years.

Chad has had little stability since gaining independence in 1960, and the upcoming talks are being widely watched as the country is seen as a key ally in international efforts to combat Islamic extremists fighting in the region.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said the talks, set to take place in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, would seek “general national reconciliation”.

About 42 of the 47 groups represented in the Doha talks will sign the deal, officials said.

– Conversations will “fight” without FACT –

The Doha Agreement commits the signatories to a ceasefire during the N’Djamena talks.

The military government has also guaranteed the safety of rebel leaders taking part in the talks.

Qatar wanted FACT leader Mahamat Mahdi Ali to leave his desert camp in Libya to attend the signing.

But FACT and other groups say the guarantees weren’t strong enough. They have also required Deby to agree in advance not to stand in any elections.

Deby, 38, promised elections in 18 months when he took power in April last year.

But his junta reserves the power to extend its “interim” rule by 18 months. However, Deby is under pressure from France, the European Union and the African Union to meet the October deadline.

“Getting so many groups to sign the agreement is a good starting point for national dialogue, but it will be difficult without organizations like FACT,” said the leader of a political group that agreed to sign on Monday .

The Chadian government has announced that more than 1,300 representatives from rebel groups, civil society, trade unions, political parties and government officials will attend the talks in N’Djamena.

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