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Supporters, Civil Society Want Withdrawal of Arrest Order for Chad's Opposition Leader

FILE - Succes Masra, president of the Transformers, a Chadian opposition party, is pictured during a briefing after a meeting with representatives of the African Union mission, May 3, 2021, in N'Djamena, Chad.
FILE - Succes Masra, president of the Transformers, a Chadian opposition party, is pictured during a briefing after a meeting with representatives of the African Union mission, May 3, 2021, in N'Djamena, Chad.

Rights groups and the political opposition in Chad have been organizing protests and issuing statements ahead of Friday's first anniversary of a crackdown that killed 128 people and injured more than 500 who were demanding an end to military rule.

Mahamat El Mahdi Abderrahmane, president of the nongovernmental group Collective Action of Youths for Peace, Development and the Emergence of Chad, said he was requesting an immediate withdrawal of an international arrest warrant that the Transitional Military Council issued for exiled pro-democracy opposition leader Succes Masra.

Abderrahmane said the decision to arrest Masra was very unpopular and indicated that military President Mahamat Idriss Deby neither respects his promises nor resolutions of the October 2022 Inclusive and Sovereign National Dialogue.

Abderrahmane said Mahamat Elhadj Abba Nana, the state prosecutor based in the capital, N'Djamena, signed an international arrest warrant for Masra on June 8, 2023, but the warrant was never made public.

On October 5, after Masra informed Chad's government in a letter that he planned to return from exile in the coming weeks, state TV reported that the arrest warrant had been leaked to social media, including WhatsApp and Facebook, the same day Masra informed authorities of his pending return.

Chad's military government says the arrest warrant shared on social media is authentic. The warrant accuses Masra of crimes including an attempted attack on constitutional order, incitement to hatred and an insurrection.

Masra says the accusations are trumped up and a bid to stop him for running for president.

Thousands protested

Opposition and rights groups say Masra and many Chadians who are in exile cannot return home because the political and security situation remains tense since October 20 of last year. Some 128 people were killed and 518 injured as thousands in towns and villages protested the military government's refusal to hand power to civilian leaders.

Masra heads the Transformers, Chad's main opposition party. He says he will delay his trip until November for security reasons.

Theophile Bebzoune Bongoro, president of Chad’s Progressive Workers for Cohesion Union, said Chad's Transitional Military Council should have rendered justice to the thousands of civilians who were either killed, injured, maimed or psychologically tortured during the peaceful protests.

Speaking via a messaging app from N'Djamena, he said the proliferation of armed groups is an indication of displeasure with junta leader Deby for violently suppressing opponents.

Bongoro said Deby should free political prisoners and stop the regular arrest and torture of civilians who hold views contrary to those of the military government.

In a message on state TV on Wednesday, Deby said he is implementing all the resolutions of the national dialogue aimed at bringing together all sides in the political spectrum. He also promised a return to constitutional rule.

Deby said he hopes the peace and tranquility that has characterized the first year of the Inclusive and Sovereign National Dialogue will continue as Chad prepares for a return to civilian rule. He said that he'd visited all 23 provinces in the country and that his government was bringing back security and improving living conditions as requested by civilians.

Deby did not comment on allegations of abuses of liberties and the arrest and torture of his opponents.

The junta leader became head of an 18-month transitional council on April 21, 2021, following the death of his 68-year-old father from injuries suffered while visiting troops fighting rebels in the north of the country.

Deby was supposed to hand power to a civilian government in October 2022 but did not do so. Instead, the transition period was extended by two years.

Human Rights Watch said in a report last week that the arrests of supporters of Chad’s main opposition party seemed to be an attempt to limit political dissent ahead of a vote on a new constitution, set for December.

Chad is expected to hold presidential elections in 2024.