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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le fils d’un disparu tchadien témoigne

by Camille Bauer

Son of “Disappeared” Chad Opposition Spokesman Speaks Out

Translated Friday 9 May 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Chad. Three months after the arrest of Ibni Oumar Mohamed Saleh, spokesman for the main opposition coalition, his son speaks out.

Have you had any news of your father?

Mohamed Saleh: According to some rumors, he is being held and treated at the villa Burkina, one of the vacation residences of the Chad head of state, but there’s been nothing to confirm it. Moreover, we recently obtained details concerning his arrest from circles close to the government. The men who came to arrest him were part of the presidential guard. They were under the orders of the deputy head of the army general staff, who is also president Déby’s nephew. The order for the arrest is said to have come directly from Idriss Déby.

A commission of enquiry has been set up. What do you think of that?

Mohamed Saleh: It has to be pointed out that this commission has not even begun to work. In fact, it’s meant above all to dull our vigilance. We also reject it because it is mainly made up of people who are close to the government. When he received my brother in March, French president Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of a commission of enquiry that would include the UN High Commission for Human Rights and NGOs like the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), which would investigate the fate of Ibni Oumar Mohamed Saleh. But Déby changed the purpose by demanding that this commission work on all the disappearances of dissidents and on the rebel attack on the capital in February.

What is your opinion of France’s efforts in your father’s behalf?

Mohamed Saleh: The French first lady, who received our mother during President Sarkozy’s trip to N’Djamena, was very receptive. Nicolas Sarkozy himself was not very convincing when he received my brother. During the interview, he insisted on president Déby’s legitimacy and that he was the only person who could accomplish anything. This kind of reasoning leads me to wonder whether, for France, legitimacy and democracy go together.

How can you describe president Déby as legitimate when, the last time he was re-elected, the entire opposition boycotted the elections and only four bogus parties close to the government agreed to enter the race? This is really an expression of scorn for those who are fighting to make democracy a reality in Chad. Moreover, Nicolas Sarkozy told us that he didn’t have any information on the disappearance of our father, which amazes us, considering the link between the DGSE (the French equivalent of the CIA) and the presidential guard, and the presence in the Chad presidency of a liaison officer representing the French military cooperation program. France supported Déby during the rebel advance, but she should also have supported the democratic opposition. She allowed Déby to take advantage of that period of confusion to decapitate the opposition and then resume talks as if nothing had happened.

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