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Can reconciliation pave the way for democracy?  -Global Bar Magazine

Can reconciliation pave the way for democracy? -Global Bar Magazine

The reconciliation process between the opposition and the country's president opens the way for a new civilian rule in Chad after a referendum on a new constitution. Could Chad then become a model for other former French colonies in West Africa?

Chad, which is undergoing an extended transition to civilian rule, held a referendum on a new constitution on 17 December 2023. Four days after the adoption of the new constitution on 29 December, interim President Mohamed Itno Déby appointed the government by decree. Transformers Party leader Najah Masra to lead the government and prepare for elections in October 2024.

In April 2021, President Idriss Deby was killed after fighting with rebel groups. He was replaced by his son, Mohamed Itno Déby, as head of the military junta Who has ruled the country since then. Najah Masra, in turn, is considered his most prominent opponent, and in October 2022 he led the violent protests against the decision to extend the transitional period. It is reported that between 70 and 300 people were killed by military and police gunfire (depending on whether the numbers come from official authorities or the opposition). The demonstrations also questioned whether the transitional president would be able to run in the upcoming presidential elections.

Najah Masra was forced into exile following the protests and was able to return in November 2023 after negotiating a reconciliation agreement in Kinshasa. The government promised to guarantee his freedom to engage in political activities, in exchange for Najah Masra’s promise to continue the dialogue for a peaceful political solution to the country’s problems. In turn, Najah Masra urged his voters to vote yes in the referendum on the new constitution.

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He wants to become president

At the same time, the reformist leader does not hide his ambition to run in the upcoming presidential elections. Several other opposition parties distanced themselves from it, as well as from the transitional government's decision to grant amnesty to all civilians and soldiers participating in the suppression of the “Black Thursday” protests.

The appointment of Massara as the new prime minister, who will lead the country until general elections in October 2024, was a surprise, according to many observers. According to Rimadji Houenathi, a researcher in international security studies in the capital, N'Djamena, accepting the position could be a way to monitor preparations for the elections. Hoenthe believes that the success of cooperation with the transitional president depends on whether the new government is composed of ministers loyal to the prime minister, or whether it is dominated by ministers close to the president and his old ruling party. Much will depend on whether Mesri succeeds in convincing public opinion that he has the opportunity to influence the government from within.

For interim President Idriss Deby, these elections are a way to show that the transitional government is serious about including all political forces and contributing to reconciliation. But for other opposition parties, the situation does not change much.

Democratic Constitution

The new constitution adopted will be the most democratic, open and modern in Chad's history. It is a unitary state with local autonomy and locally elected independent councils. The president's term is limited to two terms of five years each, an independent body organizes the elections, and there are no restrictions on the nationality of the candidate's parents. The president is also stripped of his presidency of the highest judicial office.

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The big question throughout Chad's history has been whether the country should be a decentralized unitary state or a federal state, based on region, culture, ethnicity and economy (oil and cotton are in the south) with the seven provinces in the south forming a state. An independent entity within shared sovereignty similar to the Nigerian model. Tensions lurk beneath the surface, which were felt during violent demonstrations in October 2022. Now the proposal for a decentralized unified state has won a majority in the referendum. A unified Chadian identity triumphed over a divided nationalism with one ethnic group dominating the others.

With the adoption of a new constitution and the appointment of a new opposition prime minister, major steps have been made towards holding general elections and civilian rule that would be acceptable to most political groups. We can only hope that Chad, which has been a divided country with regular rebel uprisings throughout its independence, will become a good successful example for other francophone countries with transitional governments (Guinea Conakry, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Venezuela). Gabon).

Hans Ericsson
An economist and political scientist, he has worked for the European Union and the African Development Bank in Chad, among others.

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