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Chad awaits presidential election result

Isaac Mugabi
April 12, 2021

Votes are being counted in Chad's presidential election, which is widely expected to give incumbent Idris Deby a sixth term.

Chadian President Idris Deby (second right) and other opposition candidates
President Idris Deby (second right) is expected to win a sixth term in office

A key ally in the West's anti-jihadi campaign in the Sahel, Idris Deby, 68, was the frontrunner in a six-candidate race without major rivals and after a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed.

"In general, voters decided to stay in their homes because they say that they have been voting in the previous election, but there has been no change. So, there was no point in them going out to vote," says DW's Fred Muvuyi in the capital N'Djamena.

Voters like Jean Pierre said there was no point going out to vote

and had no kind words for President Deby. "Even if I voted, there would be no change. This is a sham election," he told DW.

"We have known his leadership style for 30 years. He has squandered all the country's resources to buy weapons and enrich his relatives. The other Chadians have only become poorer."

Jean Pierre is convinced that the election will not bring change or a new leader. "The real candidates and the ones people should have voted for have withdrawn from this election. So, there was absolutely no need to vote," he said.

Chadian soldiers
Chadian troops are part of the multinational task force fighting jihadis in west AfricaImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Delay

In N'Djamena, another young voter told DW that he has voted in previous elections hoping for a better life, but nothing has changed. "I have voted five times [in previous elections], but nothing has changed. I'm young, and I have my degrees. But now I'm just doing menial jobs like bricklaying. I want something to change, but there's no point in voting. It doesn't change anything, and I'm tired of the situation," he said.

Boycott campaign

In Moundou, Chad's economic metropolis, Tamtoloum Mbainda is delighted that voters heeded the opposition's call for a boycott.

"Moundou is the second-largest city in the country, but we have neither running water nor electricity. There are many things that don't work. So, if the population reacts this way [doesn't vote], I think it's a strong call for those in power to rethink their strategy," Mbainda told DW.

In Abeche, in the east of the country, voter turnout was also low. Abderahim Awat Alboury, a teacher by profession, told DW, "there are places where you could only find one voter. Alboury is convinced that "everything will be done so that Idris Deby wins in the first vote count."

Rights activists say Idris Deby's win is a foregone conclusion. Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are among those who have voiced criticism.

Opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo told DW that their boycott of the election and low turnout exposed incumbent president Idris Deby. "He should notice that the Chadian people disavowed him and that the people disapprove and reject him," Kebzabo told DW in an interview.

"The Chadian people have demonstrated their maturity today, even though the army and police who were deployed all over the villages of Chad tried to intimidate them. We estimate that, in the best case, less than 10% of Chadians voted, said Kebzabo."

Kebzabo wrote on Twitter that the images circulating of polling stations deserted by voters mark an important victory in the opposition's call for a boycott of the vote.

Kebzabo said Idris Deby should draw conclusions from the low turnout. "We were the only party that believed in the boycott campaign. For this, we traveled thousands of kilometers and our teams across the country, except in three or four regions established. The people listened to us and today I can even say: They answered our call!"

"We in the opposition have, of course, long since started to think about the time after the election. We will keep up the pressure and will not give up at such a favorable moment," the opposition leader added.

Support from allies

But 25-year-old saleswoman Bernadette told AFP she backed Deby because "thanks to him I am free to walk wherever I want, day or night, in total security."

Adele Moyou Allarene, a first-time voter, told DW, "I want there to be more peace in Chad. There is already peace, but we need more than that. We need social cohesion."

Idris Deby flanked by supporters
Chadian President Idris Deby rallied his supporters to turn up in an election boycotted by the oppositionImage: Renaud Masbeye Boybeye/AFP/Getty Images

Chad has struggled with poverty and instability since gaining independence from France in 1960. A former rebel and career soldier who seized power in a coup in 1990, Deby has twice, with French help, thwarted attempts to oust him.

Deby has campaigned on a promise of peace and security in a region that has been rocked by jihadi insurgencies. Because of his help in the fight against Islamists in the Sahel, especially in Mali and Niger, the former army chief is held in high esteem in France and by heads of state in the Sahel.

But Deby has largely lost support among the population. Mismanagement, corruption, nepotism, and falling oil prices have massively exacerbated poverty.


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