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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Sahel state electing president after three years of military rule

Chad’s interim leader, who is running for office, took power after rebels murdered his long-ruling father in 2021

Chadians are voting to elect a president to transition the Sahel nation to civilian rule. The move on Monday makes the Central African country the first to hold elections in the region since a series of recent coups.

More than 8 million people out of Chad’s population of approximately 18 million have registered to vote. They will choose from ten candidates, including transitional leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, also known as Mahamat Kaka.

Mahamat Kaka took power in 2021 when his long-ruling father, Idriss Deby Itno, was killed fighting rebels. He initially pledged to hold elections within 18 months. However, in 2022, the military regime extended the deadline by two years, until October 2024, sparking protests that killed over 100 civilians.

The former French colony adopted a new constitution after a referendum last December, allowing Mahamat Kaka to run for president. He announced his presidential bid in March after a coalition of 221 political parties and associations endorsed his candidacy. He has pledged to promote fair, equitable, and effective governance for the development of Chad.

“Today I’m upholding a fourth commitment which was to complete the transition process launched in our country three years ago. It is now up to the people to vote massively to choose their president,” the interim leader said in a Facebook post after voting on Monday.

His candidacy announcement came just days after his presumed main opponent, Yaya Dillo, leader of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF), was shot and killed in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. The government accused Dillo, who was also Mahamat Kaka’s cousin, of carrying out a deadly armed raid on the National State Security Agency. His party denied the allegations, claiming that he was assassinated to prevent him from running in the May election.

Analysts cited by Reuters believe the elections on Monday will be a battle between Success Masra, the landlocked nation’s prime minister, and Mahamat Kaka.

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FILE PHOTO: Mahamat Idriss Deby.
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Masra, a former opposition leader, went into exile following protests against the military regime in October 2022, sparked by the government’s decision to extend the transition period for two years. He returned to Chad last November after a reconciliation agreement with the government and was only appointed premier in January.

On Saturday, the final day of campaigning, Masra promised to address youth unemployment with a five-year plan that would create 200,000 jobs.

The results of the voting are expected on May 21, with a runoff in June if necessary, according to the Chadian electoral commission.

The elections come after the US announced a temporary withdrawal of at least some troops from Chad last month, when the military authorities ordered American forces to halt activities at an airbase. The country has, however, remained the last ally of former colonial power France in the Sahel after Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger severed ties with Paris following coups.

May 06, 2024 at 04:48PM

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