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Chadian president, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, has dashed hopes for further reforms with the arrest of six members and supporters of Wakit Tamma, a coalition of Chadian opposition parties and civil society organizations, for participating in a May 14 demonstration in the capital N’Djamena.

People demonstrating in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, on May 14, 2022 over France’s military presence in the country and perceived support for the transitional government. © 2022 Private

Wakit Tamma had been leading demonstrations across Chad over France’s military presence in the country and perceived support for the transitional government. According to authorities, the protests turned violent, leading to the destruction of seven petrol stations and a dozen policemen being injured. The group denied its involvement and blamed other actors for the violence.

Following the demonstrations, Wakit Tamma leaders told Human Rights Watch that on May 14, Security Minister Idriss Dokoni Adiker convened two of their members for a meeting at which he handed them over to the intelligence services to be placed under arrest. On May 15, the intelligence services arrested one Wakit Tamma member and one supporter, while officers in plain clothes arrested a Wakit Tamma supporter at his home. On May 17, the group’s spokesperson, Max Loalngar, was arrested.

The six men have been charged with disturbing the public order, harm to property, and physical assault. Five of them are being held at N’Djamena central prison, while Loalngar is being detained at the intelligence services’ headquarters. Chad’s general prosecutor said the trial for the six men will start on June 6. On May 17, the Chadian bar association announced a halt to its activities in protest of the arrests.  

These latest arrests confirm Chad’s military authorities are backsliding on human rights. After the sudden death of President Idriss Deby Itno in 2021 and the unconstitutional takeover of his son, Mahamat Idriss, Chad’s troubling human rights situation has only worsened, particularly with regards to freedoms of assembly and expression. Mahamat Idriss’ rule has been marred by a crackdown on peaceful protests and the arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds of opposition party members and supporters.

Chad can still embrace rights and end this repression. A good start would be for the military authorities to immediately release the six Wakit Tamma members and supporters and drop the politically motivated charges against them.

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