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Chad: Abolition of censorship on the Internet (Idriss Deby is preparing for the next elections)

17.07.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Preparations for the upcoming election are the most important news item in Chad. The legislative elections have for various pretexts been postponed since 2015, and this has caused both internal political contradictions in the country and raised concerns among western partners of Idriss Deby's regime. After the announcement by the Chadian President on France24 that the elections will be held by December this year and that the restrictions on social networks have been lifted, it has become clear that the elections will take place and that the regime in place is actively preparing for them.

Internet in Chad

At the Chad-Digital Forum organized by the Ministry of Post and Innovation in Chad, President Idriss Deby in his speech, announced the immediate lifting of restrictions on social networks. These restrictions on the use of social networks were set in May last year officially because of the terrorist threat, putting Chad on an equal footing with countries like Sudan and Burundi in which authorities authoritarian also fight the Internet. Since then, Chad has been criticized by various human rights organizations around the world.

This decision on the eve of the parliamentary elections rids the regime in place of any strong argument or criticism from the opposition, thus increasing their chances of staying in power.

In his 13 July speech at the closing of the Chad-Digital Forum, Idriss Deby said: “I ask the relevant electronic communications services to immediately remove all access restrictions to all social networks.” The order was executed on the same day. This decision of the Chadian President has been hailed by many human rights and opposition organizations in particular, the organization “Internet Without Borders” which declared: “After 14 months of struggle and protection of rights Chadian Internet users, we welcome the decision of President Idriss Deby to restore access to social networks, censorship is never the solution.”

New policy in Chad

The decision to abolish censorship on the Internet is another bright step by the Chadian authorities confirming the new vector of politics. This policy of Idriss Deby’s regime was a response to attempts to destabilize the country. It is rather complicated and contradictory; it combines elements of concessions and hardening in response to the demands of the opposition. But as the reality shows, this policy is effective.

Under the new policy, the Chadian authorities are trying to solve several problems:

– Create a positive image of Chad’s leader on the international scene.

– Avoid arguments and criticisms from the opposition by successfully solving the economic problems (access to water, lower prices, gas, etc.) and political (Internet access in particular);

– Show all opponents (at home and abroad) that the country’s authorities are ready to use the most radical measures in the case of national security. The end result is expected to be the victory of the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) in the parliamentary elections of December 2019 and the victory of Idriss Deby himself in the 2020 presidential elections.

Current challenges in Chad

For many years, while in power, Idriss Deby has always had the ability to respond properly to Chad’s challenges and threats. Today, the real threats to his power are neither not the opposition within the country, nor the actions of armed rebel groups in the north and east of the country, but foreign powers represented by Western countries and international organizations for the defence of human rights.

Revitalization of America in Chad

The recent activities of the US embassy in the country demonstrate this new interest of the Trump administration in the political life of the country:

– On May 20, the National Assembly of Chad, in partnership with the US Embassy and Chad Consulting, organized a seminar with the participation of parliamentarians from 20 to 21 May 2019 on “Evaluation of Public Policies”.

– On June 1, the New Transformation Party (The Transformers) that was registered on May 14, 2019 at the United States Embassy in Chad, at the press conference on the occasion of the opening of the party’s activities, the American diplomat J. Peter Pham prevented the police from dispersing the opposition. The leader of the Party of Changes; Success Masra, a young opponent and still not very known to the public after making strong loud and statements, he tried to march with his supporters without permission to the centre of N’Djamena. However, the crowd (about 500 people) was dispersed by the police using tear gas.

– On June 7, the US Embassy in Chad issued a statement calling on the Chadian government to respect the right of citizens to hold peaceful gatherings and rallies.

– On June 10, the US Embassy in Chad called on the N’Djamena authorities to lift restrictions on public demonstrations.

The Chadian authorities in the media have not failed to organize a campaign against foreign interference in the internal affairs of Chad.

Moreover, the Chadian government authorities are getting closer and collaborating more and more with some opposition supporters (hidden partisans). This can be seen in the following publications:

– The Secretary General of the Association of Human Rights Defenders in Chad (ADHET), Abba Daud Nangede, gave a briefing during which he called on the population not to respond to the calls for strike launched by some parties and organizations.

– On May 24, Suraj Kulamalla, coordinator of the Agir Ensemble platform, held a press conference in N’Djamena on the theme “Journées de l’économie civile” which is aimed at support the government in the search for new economic and social solutions.

Abderamane Kulamalla, President of the Democratic Union of Chad, said the government could not be held responsible for all the problems that households are facing.

Human Rights Community

The former strongman of Chad, Hissen Habré, nicknamed “Pinochet Afrique”, thanks to the activities of international human rights organizations, was sentenced to life imprisonment in May 2016. Many opponents in Chad think that Idriss Deby should legitimately expect the same fate.

In 2016, during the presidential election, the government of Chad turned off the Internet for three months. The repeated and prolonged restriction of Internet access (since May 2018) has seriously affected Idriss Deby’s image.

In 2018, the human rights organization Internet Without Borders announced the establishment of an office in N’Djamena, filed a complaint with the N’Djamena District Court against telephone companies and called on Chad to put an end to censorship. In an interview with RFI on behalf of one of the organization’s leaders, Abdelkrim Jakub (head of the unit in Central Africa), recalled that the organization fears street violence in the country because of its incapacity to express your opinion on the Internet:

If today it is impossible to organize peaceful demonstrations in Chad, if it is forbidden to gather more than ten people in the street, if it is impossible to speak about elections, if it is impossible today for young people to communicate on their Facebook page or on social networks, what is left to young Chadians?”

Indeed, attempts to stir up students in N’Djamena in April-May this year, including Internet censorship, were as a result of dissatisfaction.

Launch of President Deby’s active campaign

The Chadian authorities are conducting an active media campaign to reinforce President Idriss Deby’s positive image. Over the past period, he began to appear more and more with public statements and positive promises, at the beginning of the electoral campaign:

– On June 25, Idriss Deby, meeting in N’Djamena, the International Organization of la Francophonie on the issue of women’s education, spoke like a modern leader suited to the world community.

– On 26 June, a forum to attract Arab investors in Chad to the “Chad-Arab Global Investing in Chad Forum” opened in N’Djamena, in the presence of the Head of State, and several invited Arab investors. In his speech, the Chadian president highlighted investment opportunities in Chad, with enormous potential and a set of legislative tools to promote investment;

– June 30th Idriss Deby, during the ceremony laying the foundation stone for the construction of a water tower in Abeche, promised to increase access to clean water throughout the country before 2021.

Preparations for the election

After a lively debate, the deputies of the National Assembly adopted the new electoral code with 127 votes for, 29 against and no abstentions.

All that is needed for a legislative election is now complete. The adoption of the electoral code comes immediately after the ratification of Decree No. 001 / PR / 2019 of 11 February 2019 on the creation of administrative units and autonomous communities. With this new law, the country has 23 provinces, 112 divisions and 414 municipalities.

Also the budget-2019 allocated the necessary funds for elections into the Legislative Assembly; the prolonged economic crisis remaining the only obstacle to the holding of elections in the country.

Article from AFRIC editorial

Photo credit: google images/ illustration

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