Saturday 24 February 2018

Tensions in Chad as Deby sworn in for fifth term

Tensions in Chad as Deby sworn in for fifth term
(AFP 08/09/16)

Chad's President Idriss Deby took the oath of office Monday for a fifth term in power, facing dogged resistance from an opposition that alleges his re-election was a "political hold-up".

With tensions high a day after the death of a protester during an opposition march, around a dozen African heads of state attended the swearing-in ceremony, including the presidents of Nigeria and Niger which, like Chad, are battling the Boko Haram jihadist group.

"I am the president of all Chadians," Deby said in his inauguration speech.

The 64-year-old veteran leader promised "a relentless battle against terrorism everywhere it threatens our interests and our security".

Other allies, including leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, attended the ceremony which was held at a large hotel in the capital N'Djamena.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, defence minister of former colonial power France, also attended to the dismay of the opposition, which wants the international community to recognise the "dictatorial nature" of Deby's regime.

Deby, who first came to power in 1990, was re-elected in a first-round vote in April with around 60 percent of ballots cast, against almost 13 percent for opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo.

One young protester was shot dead on Sunday in a government crackdown, opposition and police sources said, with Kebzabo saying he had been hit by live bullets fired by security forces to disperse the protesters.

Kebzabo said he was "surprised and disappointed" by France's decision to send a high ranking representative.

He told AFP the opposition was Monday holding a general strike to create what it called a "dead city" in protest against Deby's return to power.

He also said he had received an order from the prosecutor to report to the police on Tuesday morning.

- 'We're in the right' -

Kebzabo had on Saturday declared: "We are in the right. It's the government that is acting illegally by preventing political parties from expressing themselves."

Opposition activists have also announced the filing of a complaint in court alleging "high treason" by Deby, claiming "illegal taking of power by violence" and "misuse of public money".

The opposition 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.

Arrests and disappearances of activists are common in the nation of 12 million people.

The situation in the semi-desert country, a key player in the fight against west African jihadist groups, has been tense in recent months and as an oil producer its economy has suffered from the global fall in crude prices.

Deby in his speech Monday urged rural development rather than a reliance on oil. "Our good will never come from oil resources because their scarcity and volatility are more of a weakness than a reassurance," he said.

Chad is an active ally of Western nations and its neighbours in the battle against the Nigeria-based Islamist group Boko Haram, and N'Djamena is the headquarters for France's Barkhane anti-jihadist force.

The opposition has laid partial blame on France for the tensions in the country, claiming Paris has turned a blind eye to alleged human rights violations.

Despite the regime's strict security set-up, Chad has seen unusual social tension this year.

The gang rape of a schoolgirl by the sons of senior officials triggered angry demonstrations around the country, which were severely dealt with by the authorities.

And strikes by officials over late salary payments have been growing.

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