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Dozens killed in Chad 'repression' of protests

October 21, 2022

International condemnation came swiftly after more than 50 people were killed in clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters in Chad. Military rule in the country was recently extended, angering many.

Protests in N'Djamena, Chad
Protesters burned used tires in a district of the capital, N'DjamenaImage: Blaise Darioustone/DW

The Chadian capital, N'Djamena, was relatively calm Friday morning, a day after security forces reportedly opened fire on protesters and killed more than 50 people.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets Thursday to protest against the country's continued military rule, with junta leader Mahamat Idriss Deby recently being sworn in as president for a second time. 

The protests occurred on the date when the military originally promised it would cede power to civilians. 

"All is calm this morning, at least for now. Traffic is back to normal. Stores and stores are also open. Schools are open again and children are on their way to school. Citizens are on their way to work. So for the moment, it's quiet," said DW correspondent in Chad, Blaise Dariustone, on Friday. 

He added, "But we see a massive presence of elements of the security forces and the military everywhere in the traffic circles of the city. Some of them are also on the streets of N'djamena."

What happened during the protests?

Several parts of N'Djamena were barricaded on Thursday, with police firing smoke and tear gas at protesters. Gunfire was also heard in the capital. 

Schools and universities were shuttered during the uprising. 

"They're firing on us. They are killing our people," Transformers party chief Succes Masra tweeted. He posted footage of what he said were gunshots being fired at ambulances.

Demonstrators set fire to the party headquarters of newly appointed Prime Minister Saleh Kebzabo.

"Our headquarters were ransacked and then set on fire this morning," Celestin Topona, vice president of the National Union for Democracy and Renewal party, told Reuters by phone. "The guard was almost lynched by violent protesters."

Kebzabo said about 50 were killed in the demonstrations.

A government spokesman and a morgue official later said at least 60 people were killed. 

Kebzabo announced a nighttime curfew would be imposed until the "total restoration of order" was completed in areas of unrest.

Condemnation of lethal use of force

Enrica Picco of the International Crisis Group think tank told DW, "We have not seen police repression like today since the death of President Idriss Déby [in April 2021] in N'Djamena."

"Chad's international partners must condemn this outbreak of violence and repression of demonstrations," Picco said. 

African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat denounced the "repression of demonstrations" by the junta. Mahamat earlier served as Chadian prime minister.  

France has also condemned the crackdown and rebuked rumors that it was involved in the repression. 

The UN has called for an investigation into the deaths.

"We deplore lethal use of force against protesters in Chad," the UN rights office said in a tweet, urging transitional authorities to "ensure safety and protection of human rights, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also condemned the violence. 

"The repression of demonstrations and the excessive use of force constitute serious violations of the freedoms of expression and demonstration, which undermine the ongoing transition process," Borrell said. 

Crisis follows power vacuum left by late president

Chad has been thrown into turmoil following the death of Deby's father, former President Idriss Deby Itno. The elder Deby was killed in 2021 during fighting with the Front for Change and Concord rebel group.

Idriss Deby Itno ruled the country for 30 years, after coming to power in a coup in 1990. He cracked down on the opposition and human rights during his tenure, with the Chadian economy also languishing under his rule. 

The younger 38-year-old Deby took power in April 2021 and originally vowed a restoration of civilian rule in 18 months. Earlier this month, he reneged on his promise, delaying elections to October 2024 and becoming the country's "transitional" president. 

In addition to a political crisis and economic malaise, Chad is also experiencing devastating flooding, which is affecting over 1 million people in the impoverished country. Deby declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, to "better contain and manage this national disaster situation."

Deby said the waters have "swallowed up more than 465,000 hectares of fields and 19,000 heads of livestock." He called the situation "extremely worrying" and said the most at-risk areas are the capital and its surrounding regions.

fb, wd/ar (AFP, Reuters)