The Chadian security forces killed more than fifty protesters and injured many more in N’Djamena, the country’s capital, and several cities in the country, on 20 October. But the Chadian people are not relenting, as working-class people and Chadian civil society organizations in the country and in exile renewed their commitment to a pro-democratic struggle for their liberation from autocratic rule.
SWL has thrown its support to the Chadian people, endorsing their letters aimed at putting pressure on the government to force it out. We have also participated in online activities that the movements of the Chadian people have organized to further their struggle.
As working-class and youth activists in Nigeria, we need to have a clear perspective of what is happening in Chad and how to support the democratic struggle in that country.
The 20 October peaceful protests were organized to demand a new political order in the country by Mouvement TOP 20 Octobre, a coalition of political parties, civil society organizations, youth associations, and faith-based organizations.
The rallying call of the coalition was “Stop the Dynasty in Chad.” Mahamat Deby is head of the Transitional Military Council ruling Chad. The 38-year-old army general took over power on 20 April 2021, after militants of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (known by its French acronym: FACT) killed his father, Idris Derby, who ruled Chad for 31 years. This was the day after he was declared the winner of elections that would have given him a sixth term in office.
The younger Derby’s military junta immediately dissolved parliament and repealed the constitution. The older Derby also came into power in 1990 through a military coup. But he later transitioned into a sight-tight civilian president, just as General Sani Abacha wanted to do in Nigeria in the 1990s.
Mahamat’s seizing power last year was rightly seen by Chadians as a coup to perpetuate what they see as a Derby dynasty. To assuage simmering discontent after the coup, he promised that his so-called Transition Military Council would hold elections within 18 months, i.e., by 20 October 2022.
The Chadian working people could see through his lies, right from the beginning. Within two days after he came to power, the national trade union center called for a general strike to stop the coup. Demonstrations also shook the streets for weeks into May. Again, in September 2021, thousands of Chadians also took to the streets But the military junta brutally crushed all the protests.
The new Derby wanted to sight-tight as maximum ruler like his father before him. And he had the support of France. In May 2022, the Chadian working people turned their anger on France. Wakit Tamma, a civil society coalition, mobilized for mass action against French interests in Chad on 14 May.
Hundreds of protesters turned out for the demonstrations which took place in the capital city and several other towns. Reuters reported that this included Mahmoud Moussa, a high school teacher who said, “we are demonstrating against Franc for its support for the transitional military council.”
The protesters burned French flags and targeted petrol stations operated by TotalEnergies, the French oil company. The Chadian police dispersed the protesters with tear gas and water cannon. At least two of them died from the injuries they sustained. Six Wakit Tamma leaders were charged to court and sentenced within weeks of the mass action.
However, in the aftermath of that protest, the Transitional Military Council enabled the functioning of the Committee for Organization of Inclusive National Dialogue (CODNI) which it had set up in August 2021, ostensibly as an institution to drive the democratization process it earlier promised.
CODNI organized a fraudulent national dialogue, which brought together 1,400 participants between August and October 2022. Based on its unsurprising resolution, the Transitional Military Council was dissolved on 10 October and Derby was declared as Transitional President with the power to appoint a transitional administration.
It was against this background that Mouvement TOP 20 Octobre launched its call for the 20 October protests on 18 October. The struggle for democracy in Chad is a struggle that the working class must support across Africa and worldwide.
We urge trade unions and civil society organizations in Nigeria and internationally to demand Mahamat Derby handover power immediately to an interim government made up of the trade unions and pro-democratic movement of civil society organizations to conduct transparent elections without any delay. Down to military rule under any guise!
We must also challenge French imperialism and its interests in Chad, and across the Sahel. France, which colonized the country, like all other imperialist countries, is only concerned with the continued exploitation of African people and our natural resources.
We must make France hands off Chad now. All the French troops in Chad and across Africa must leave. France has maintained a colonial vice grip on the neck of its ex-colonies in Africa. It supported the former Derby because his 1991 coup helped roll back the preceding Hussein Habre government’s romance with American imperialism. Chad and Africa as a whole can no longer afford to be pawns in inter-imperialist chess games stacked against us. Down to French and all imperialist forces in Africa!
by Yusuf LAWAL