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The “national dialogue” in Chad is to begin after delays

#national #dialogue #Chad #delays

Crucial national talks on Chad’s future, which the ruling junta says will pave the way for elections, begin on Saturday, but the forum has been marred by delays and boycotts.

More than 1,400 delegates from the military government, civil society, opposition parties, trade unions and rebel groups will gather in N’Djamena for the three-week “national dialogue”.

The talks are the brainchild of junta chief General Mahamat Idriss Deby.

Deby took power in April 2021, aged just 37, after his father, who ruled for 30 years, was killed in a military operation against rebels.

He said the forum should pave the way for “free and democratic” elections after 18 months of junta rule – a deadline France, the African Union (AU) and others have urged him to meet.

But the “dialogue,” which should have started in February, was marred by delays as Chadian’s myriad rebel groups meeting in Qatar squabbled over whether to attend.

In the end, around 40 groups signed an agreement on August 8 that included a ceasefire and guarantees of safe passage.

On the agenda are lasting peace, reform of state institutions and a new constitution that will be put to a referendum.

Junta leader Deby signed a decree on Wednesday stating that decisions made at the forum were “legally binding”.

Deby will speak around 10:00 a.m. (0900 GMT), said Saleh Kebzabo, vice president of the forum’s organizing committee and a former opponent of the elder Deby.

The dialogue will then begin on Sunday or Monday, Kebzabo told the AFP news agency.

The head of the AU Commission and Chad, Moussa Faki Mahamat, will also speak at the opening of the talks.

– ‘Distorted in advance’ –

On Thursday, two exiled rebel leaders, Timan Erdimi and Mahamat Nouri, returned to Chad to attend the forum.

“We signed this agreement to rebuild Chad,” Erdimi, the head of the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), told AFP.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Chad has experienced repeated uprisings and civil unrest since gaining independence in 1960.

According to observers, the talks face major challenges: time pressure and the fact that two of the largest rebel groups are not taking part.

These include the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), which launched the offensive in the Northeast last year that ended in the death of elder Deby.

FACT said it considered the talks “biased in advance”.

Wakit Tamma, a grand coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups, is also refusing to take part, accusing the junta of “human rights abuses” and preparing Deby’s presidential candidacy.


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