Chad amnesties hundreds of rebels and dissidents

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Chad’s army-led government on Monday declared an amnesty for nearly 300 rebels and political dissidents, responding to a key request from opposition groups invited to join a forum on the struggling country’s future.

The amnesty will apply to 296 people convicted of offenses including “crimes of opinion”, “terrorism” and “attacking the integrity of the State”, according to a decision of the Council of Ministers received by AFP.

Rebel groups said the amnesty was a prerequisite for joining a roundtable proposed by President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, 37, who took the reins after his father Idriss Deby Itno was killed fighting the insurgents in April.

On taking office, young Deby sacked the government, dissolved parliament and repealed the constitution, promising to hold “free and fair” elections within 18 months.

In August, he proposed launching a dialogue that would include rebel groups.

After contacts in Doha and Paris, the capital of Qatar, the rebels last month laid down preconditions.

These include “the release of prisoners of war, a general amnesty for all politico-military personalities and the return of rebel property seized by the government”.

The decree published on Monday said that it was “essential to sweep away the remains bequeathed from the dark periods of our time, by granting a general amnesty to those who, for one reason or another, chose the path of exile and / or violence to express their political differences.

Volatile

A former French colony in the heart of central and northern Africa, Chad has a long history of coups and fighting.

The elder Deby, like his son, a career military officer, came to power in 1990.

He ruled the country with an iron fist for 30 years, remaining in power after being repeatedly re-elected in elections that opponents condemned as flawed or rigged.

Relying on the air support of his ally France, he foiled the attempts of exiles crossing Libya or Sudan to advance on the capital N’Djamena.

The amnesty applies to those who are in prison and others who have been convicted but are not in detention.

It affects 39 people convicted of attacking the integrity of the State or crimes of opinion.

It also covers 257 members of armed groups who were jailed after an attempt by the rebel coalition, the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR) to oust Deby senior in 2019.

Government spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah said the decree included a list of the names of those receiving amnesty.

“The rebel leaders are not there because they have already been granted amnesties in 2018,” he said.

Rebel welcome

Kingabe Ogouzeimi of Tapol, spokesman for a prominent rebel group called Front pour le changer et la concorde au Tchad (FACT), whose forces were fighting Deby senior when the former president was killed in April, welcomed this advert.

“If confirmed and confirmed by the facts, this amnesty will be a big step forward towards, among other things, the dialogue, reconciliation and peace that all Chadians want,” he told AFP.

Timan Erdimi, the head of the UFR who lives in exile in Qatar, said that the amnesty is “part of our preconditions. It is a first step”.

He also stressed, however, the “release of Tom Erdimi”, his brother – who according to relatives is detained in Egypt – as well as “prisoners of war and the restitution of seized property”.

Kelma Manatouma, a Chadian political researcher at the University of Nanterre near Paris, said the decision was “an important step towards reconciliation and a political act to give legitimacy to (Deby junior) … which had been contested due to dynastic succession “.

“He will obtain a capital of goodwill, both nationally and abroad, which will include a potential candidate for the presidential election,” Manatouma predicted.

Chad, whose army is considered the best in the Sahel, is a key country in France’s anti-jihadist campaign in the region.

The handover of power to the young Déby was quickly endorsed by Paris, and also supported by the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU).

(AFP)

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