Thursday 22 March 2018

Chad opposition chief quizzed in missing soldiers probe

Chad opposition chief quizzed in missing soldiers probe
(AFP 08/10/16)

Chad's main opposition leader was questioned Tuesday over the suspected disappearance of some 20 soldiers, a judicial source said, a day after President Idriss Deby was sworn in for a fifth term.

"At the request of the state prosecutor, we have taken the testimony of Mr (Saleh) Kebzabo about the suspected disappearance of soldiers" after the presidential poll on April 10, the judicial source told AFP after the two hours of questioning.

On April 28, the Chadian League for Human Rights (LTDH) and Amnesty International reported that more than 20 soldiers and security personnel were feared missing and were thought to have resisted pressure to vote for Deby.

Both the rights groups and former colonial power France called for government action and an investigation into the missing soldiers was opened in mid-May.

The opposition had also denounced the soldiers' disappearance and called Deby's re-election a "political hold-up", saying its own count showed no candidate won outright in the first round.

The election campaign was marred by a clampdown on demonstrations by unions and rights groups demanding a change of leadership and democratic reforms.

Last week, the National Assembly lifted the parliamentary immunity for Kebzabo and Gali Ngothe Gatta, another opposition deputy, so they could be questioned by the prosecutor.

"So I am the first target of the fifth term," Kebzabo told AFP on Monday when he had received the summons to appear for questioning. He accused the regime of more intimidation after repressing recent demonstrations, including shooting to death a young demonstrator during a march last weekend.

Tensions in the country remain high as Deby, who first came to power in 1990, begins a new five-year term. Chad is a key player in the fight against west African jihadist groups, but as an oil producer its economy has suffered from the global fall in crude prices.

Strikes by officials over late salary payments have been growing.

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