Chad two years later: little progress, plenty to worry about

Despite some positive steps, a return to constitutional order and civilian rule is still a long way off.

April 2023 marked two years of transition in Chad. Initiated after the death of president Idriss Déby Itno, the process was primarily aimed at uniting the Chadian population and restoring constitutional order. Openness and inclusiveness were to be central to the transition.

However, despite some progress, there are few serious signs of a return to constitutional order and the transfer of power to civilians in the near future. The transition was designed to ensure stability, so this situation is worrying for both political actors in Chad and the country’s partners.

Internally, Chadian society remains fragmented and the political community is just as divided as before. The transitional authorities appear to be firmly focused on upcoming deadlines, namely a new constitution, the referendum and elections. But calls for inclusion and dialogue from political and civil actors, and Chad’s partners, seem to have gone unheeded.

Two meetings, the Doha talks and the Inclusive and Sovereign National Dialogue, could be seen as significant steps forward. They were intended to cement reconciliation and lay the groundwork for rebuilding Chad. However, several key figures from the rebellion along with the political sector and civil society were left out. The end of the dialogue in October 2022 was marked by bloody protests against the resolutions.

The AU took a tolerant stance to the transition, which means it no longer has a real grasp on the process

These events continue to haunt public opinion in the country. Action taken by the authorities to ease tensions – for example releasing some demonstrators and rebels – were deemed largely insufficient.

Progress on a return to constitutional order and transfer of power to civilians has also faltered. Despite the steps taken towards creating a new constitution, political actors continue to raise concerns about the lack of inclusion. Commissions to draft the constitution and organise the constitutional referendum were set up in January and are currently at work. However, they are largely dominated by the transitional authorities and don’t represent the national political community.

For both the transitional government and Chad’s partners, stability is the main objective of this transition. Many national and international observers saw the process as an unconstitutional power grab.

Two years later, the major rebel movements in the far north, such as the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, and the Miski self-defence group, remain active. Another rebel group, the Movement for the Revolution of the South, has also reportedly been formed in the area bordering the Central African Republic. In addition, community clashes have become increasingly violent. The latest conflict, from 15-19 April, resulted in 23 deaths in under 48 hours.

Defining stability as the ability to contain security threats leaves little room for manoeuvre

Internationally, France, the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) have, in the name of stability, made an exception in their position on power grabs, and supported Chad. France is a key partner to Chad in several areas, including development, culture and security. As part of their military cooperation, France has regularly intervened alongside the Chadian army to halt the advance of rebel convoys, particularly under the late president.

Because of Chad’s recurring conflicts, this aspect of cooperation between the two nations has gradually become more prominent. The result is an understanding by France that stability in Chad barely stands up beyond its military capabilities. Unfortunately, this situation has not changed during the transition period. France has maintained its position, with little to no emphasis on human rights and democratic standards.

For the AU, Chad’s transition is on shaky ground. Even though the transfer of power went against the provisions of the country’s constitution, the AU decided to take a tolerant stance, which means it no longer has a real grasp on the process.

Unlike the Economic Community of West Africa States’ sanctions regarding coups in Mali and Guinea, ECCAS has adopted a more conciliatory stance regarding Chad’s transition. It offered its assistance with an independent investigation into the bloody repression of the 20 October 2022 demonstrations. This inquiry is important, but the organisation’s full support for the transition at the beginning of the process means certain political and civil actors believe its approach appears biased.

A balance is needed between security in the short term and political and social stability in the medium term

Given Chad’s current situation, defining stability as a country’s ability to contain security threats from both external actors and internal rebel groups leaves little room for manoeuvre. It doesn’t allow for a radical rebuilding that considers social cohesion, human rights and democracy. On the contrary, such an approach risks being an excuse for prolonging the military transition.

The transitional authorities and their partners must find a better balance between achieving security in the short term, and political and social stability in the medium to long terms. Inclusiveness, accountability and justice must remain guiding principles in the pursuit of this balance.

Remadji Hoinathy, Senior Researcher, Central Africa and the Great Lakes, ISS and Yamingué Bétinbaye, Director of Research, Center for Research in Anthropology and Human Sciences, N’Djamena, Chad

Image: © SANOGO / AFP

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Development partners
This article is part of a series on preventing the next coups in West Africa and the Sahel. Research for the article was funded by Irish Aid. The ISS is also grateful for the support of the Bosch Foundation and the ISS Partnership Forum members: the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the European Union, the Open Society Foundations and the governments of Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
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