A month ago, the withdrawal of over twenty opposition groups from the scheduled talks due to various dissatisfactions made headlines as this seemed to jeopardise the negotiations. However, the national dialogue, which should have taken place in February, finally began as re-scheduled on Saturday, 20 August, and will continue for twenty-one days.
Chad’s capital city N’Djamena hosted over 1400 military, civil society, opposition parties, trade unions, and rebel groups. The country’s current leader, Mahamat Idriss Deby, has shown his commitment to the smooth progression of the dialogue.
Mahamat is the son of slain president Idriss Deby who led Chad for thirty years until he was killed in combat with rebel groups last year. On Wednesday, he endeavoured to sign a decree stipulating that any decisions made at the talk would be legally binding.
Describing the dialogue as a “decisive moment” in Chad’s history, Deby believes it should usher in the “free and democratic” elections. Bound by the time frame of eighteen months given to him by France and the African Union (AU), the delays that have jeopardised the forum are in the past.
Chad has an extensive war history, having come out of their most recent one twelve years ago. Clashes between rebel groups and the government are a regular occurrence, with the last few years being no exception. Therefore, one of the main points of discussion at the forum is “lasting peace.” Attendees will further discuss means to reform state institutions and the creation of a brand new constitution. According to Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, more topics will include:
- The upcoming elections.
- The demilitarisation of the armed groups that signed the Doha peace deal.
- Their overall future in the country.
One of the standout moments leading up to the forum is the return of two of the country’s most prominent opposition leaders. The head of the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), Timan Erdimi, who spent seventeen years in exile, was exiled after attempting to overthrow former president Deby, who was also his uncle, twice, in 2005 and 2019. Mahamat Nouri, head of the Union for Democracy and Development (UFDD), is said to have arrived shortly after Erdimi and was quoted saying he is ready for the dialogue. The former defense minister was detained in France in 2019 because he was recruiting child soldiers in Chad and Sudan.
Erdimi’s presence is said to be of utmost importance during the proceedings. “I am very happy to return home after so many years in exile,” he said upon landing in N’Djamena on Thursday. “I hope that everything will go well to achieve peace, reconciliation and serenity in the country,” he added.
Despite approximately fifty opposition groups signing the peace pact, one rebel group still refuses to participate in the proceedings. Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) still maintains that their demands have not been met. Wakit Tamma, a large coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups, has also decided to distance themselves from the talks as they believe that a large portion of the participants is “close to the junta,” according to Succes Masra, the head of the Transformers party.
A lot rides on the success of the dialogue, especially peace in Chad. Tensions are already high, with many anticipating how Deby’s October deadline will arrive and not enough will have been achieved. Some believe three weeks is not enough to conclude such a high level of issues. The upcoming elections represent a crucial moment for Chad. Therefore, maintaining unity amongst all coalitions and factions will make the journey smoother.