30 Years, Many Tears, Same Fears – And Chad Heads to the Polls

In December 1990, 38-year old Idris Deby came to head the Government of Chad after a successful coup. The country’s hope soared and they saw, finally, an escape route from their suffering. But as time passed, under Deby’s rule, the fog cleared. They sank further in miseries of all kinds and were placed under an authoritarian rule. Their worst nightmare had come to dinner.

Since he came to power more than three decades ago, and like Nguesso of Congo, Deby has won all five elections he has participated in, and is on a roll for the sixth term, albeit, this time with stiff opposition. He has since scratched the nation’s two-term limit and sponsored constitutional amendments in his favour. The 2018 constitutional amendments only solidified Deby’s firm grip on power, extending presidential mandates from five to six years. The amendments have ensured that Deby can stay in power for another 12 years, constitutionally.

Deby is just one of several African leaders who have a pact with irresponsible longevity. His leadership in the country has continued to stifle hope in the oil-rich nation even as calls for a new face to the old seat grow.

When he was announced the flag-bearer of the Patriotic Salvation Movement, Chadians trooped to the streets to chant and protest his candidacy. He replied with more brutal force and the habitual high-handed approach. Protesters were arrested and charged for assault, protests were banned on the streets of the capital N’djamena and several parts of the country.

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Unseating Deby is a big kettle of fish for Presidential hopeful Baradine Berdeï Targuio, and he’s never shy to show it. Human Rights activist, Baradine Berdeï Targuio, has been detained since January 2020 after being charged with “subversive activities on social media”.

Chances are, an internet clampdown, fast becoming typical of an African election, may follow in due course.

The clampdown on opposition and critics also saw the government shutting down Radio Liberté in the country.

In early March, strong opposition, Saleh Kebab backed out amid an attack on another opposition candidate Yaya Dillo. Dillo’s 80-year old mother was killed, and five members of his family sustained different degrees of wounds in the attack, although the state claimed it suffered losses because Dillo resisted arrest.

Another prominent opposition leader, Ngarledji Yorongar has pulled out in protest of Deby’s candidacy, as well.

Rest assured the incumbent is neither losing sleep over the pull-outs nor is he worried about the election as he’s sure of what’s ahead, in a nation he has held by the scruff and has arm-twisted every facet of in his favour.

Deby told supporters at a campaign on Monday he is sure going to win. He made it clear to the people that he knows in advance that he will win, as he has done in the last 30 years.

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A rejected 38-year old candidate, Succès Masra described the election as a training match for Deby, after he was withdrawn for not being up to the 45 year age limit.

Masra describes the election as similar to a home game played by the same team which has been split in two.

Threats and counter-threats have been made ahead of Sunday’s election. Opposition leader, Kebzabo vows to make the country “ungovernable” for Deby if the President emerges winner. Unfazed, Deby retorted that those planning to destroy his government “have signed their political death warrants”.

The Old Flock of Central Africa

Africa’s central region has some of the oldest and longest-serving politicians in the world. With their nations still clutching straws and totally dependent on aids, despite an abundance of natural resources, the irresponsible longevity of these leaders, many agree is misplaced, undeserving and regressive.

Eguatoguinean President, Theodoro Obiang has spent 42 years in office without visible development to justify his tens of years in the Presidency. Paul Biya has spent 39 years in Cameroon with the country still pegged low. ‘Emperor’ Sassou Nguesso recently won an election that has stamped his continuity after 37 years in office in the Republic of Congo. In Gabon, where Ali Bongo is continuing his father, Omar Bongo’s reign, the problems are the same. The late elder Bongo spent 42 years in office and now his son has spent 12, leaving the country at the mercy of the same family for the last 54 years. A flipping dynasty!

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Like Deby, who enjoys the strong backing of American and French governments, who have helped him in the fight against terrorists, Cameroon and Congo are also solidly backed by France, as well. Then there’s Africa’s longest-serving leaders, Biya and Nguesso who hobnob with the strongest international communities who condone their firm grip on power back home.

Not surprising but carrying nagging concerns, the same lilly-livered nations condoning and supporting these will never let it happen in their countries, but in Africa, so long as it’s for their ultimate benefit, Black Emperors get white flags.

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