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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’opposition civile dans la ligne de mire de Déby

by Anne Roy

Déby Takes Aim at the Civilian Opposition

Translated Saturday 16 February 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Chad, February 12. There is still no news of the opponents to the regime who were kidnapped a week ago. They embodied the hope for a peaceful transition.

France is timidly awakening. A week ago, French defense minister Hervé Morin, completely given over to expressing warm friendship for Chad president Idriss Déby, coldly hinted that the arrest of government opponents in N’Djamena might be no more than “rumors.” Since then, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for the Rights of Man, among other international organizations, have rung the alarm bell on the fate of at least four leaders of the civilian opposition, who were arrested at their homes in the capital of Chad on February 3, as soon as loyalist forces had got the upper hand over the rebels. The French ministry of foreign affairs belatedly made it known that it has asked that the prisoners “be allowed to receive visits” – the diplomatic minimum for acknowledging the arrest of the government opponents who embody the sole hope for a peaceful alternative to the Idriss Déby regime and of whom, as of yesterday, nothing further has been heard.

Idriss Déby had no sooner reappeared in public, after having faced the severest rebel attack since he came to power in a 1990 putsch, than he indicated that the worst might be expected, as he announced that rebels in civilian clothes were still present in N’Djamena – suggesting that the anti-opponent witch hunt is not over.

And yet, those who were forcibly arrested (according to the description given by those who witnessed the arrests) have always stood out for their rejection of armed regime change, whether it be Lol Mahamat Choua, the president of the committee following up the August 13, 2007 agreement on reinforcing democracy in Chad – which was signed under the aegis of the European Union –, or the opponent Ngarlejy Yorongar, or Waled Abdelkader Kamougué, the popular leader from the south who leads one of the member parties of the Coordination for the Defense of the Constitution (CPDC), or Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, who has been the spokesman of the CPDC since it was set up in 2003.

Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh is a “big fish” for the Déby regime. Saleh comes from the same region as Deby and is seen, according to the CERI-CNRS researcher Roland Marchal, as “a dangerous man politically, to the extent that he embodies the possibility of a popular opposition, a man who has put forward a rigorous, honest and politically thought-out position.” As for the civilian population, haunted by the memory of the 1979 civil war, it has gone into hiding and its hopes do not go beyond obtaining the bare necessities. Marchal emphasized that “they are the ones who are the first to pay for the misguided ways of France, which has been backing Déby for years on the pretext that he is a lesser evil.”

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