Chadian Rebel leader Erdimi Returns After 17 Years in Exile

Chadian Rebel leader Erdimi Returns After 17 Years in Exile (News Central TV)

Days before the commencement of national negotiations intended to pave the way for elections after the military seized power last year, one of Chad’s most notable rebel commanders, Timan Erdimi, returned to the nation after spending 17 years in exile.

Erdimi, 67, the leader of the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), emigrated from Chad to Qatar in 2005 and has resided there in exile for at least ten years. In 2008 and 2019, his armed organisation made two attempts to depose his uncle, Idriss Deby, the former president of Chad.

Idriss Deby

After Deby’s UFR failed to overthrow the government in 2008, it continued to pose a threat in 2019. In 2019, fighters affiliated with the UFR pushed from Libya into Chadian territory before their convoy was destroyed by French fighter jets.

“I am very happy to return home after so many years in exile,” Erdimi said after his arrival at the capital’s N’Djamena International Airport early on Thursday.

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“I hope that everything will go well to achieve peace, reconciliation and serenity in the country,” he told reporters, adding he hoped to transform the UFR into a political party.

A second rebel leader Mahamat Nouri, head of the Union for Democracy and Development (UFDD), was reported landing shortly after Erdimi.

“I am absolutely ready for dialogue,” Nouri was quoted as saying by local media.

The rebel leader, who came clad in a white robe and turban, was greeted by hundreds of people.

Prior to his defection, Nouri served as the former president’s defense minister. Due to his recruitment of child soldiers in Sudan and the Chad, he was held in France in 2019 on suspicion of crimes against humanity. The following year, for health reasons, he was released.

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The military appointed his son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, as acting president of Chad after the country’s longstanding leader Deby was killed in combat while visiting front-line troops in April of last year.

The younger Deby, 38, has started negotiations with numerous rebel organisations that have long opposed his father’s government.

A peace agreement was signed by at least 40 rebel and opposition groups with the transitional government of Chad last week, committing them to the Saturday negotiations.

The “conversation” was supposed to begin in February but was frequently postponed as Chad’s numerous rebel groups quarreled about whether to attend a meeting in Qatar.

Wakit Tamma, a sizable alliance of opposition parties and civil society organisations, is ignoring the talks among political parties.

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“We estimate that 80 percent of (those attending) are close to the junta,” said Succes Masra, head of the Transformers party, which is part of the coalition.

It accuses the military of violating human rights and using the “dialogue” as a springboard for Deby’s election candidacy, something that he has previously ruled out.

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