N’Djamena – A national dialogue in Chad launched by the country’s military rulers was on Saturday suspended again to bring in boycotters as the security forces intensified their crackdown on an opposition group.
Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno heads a transitional military council of 15 generals after taking power following his father’s death battling rebels in April 2021.
He set up the dialogue with a view to holding “free and democratic elections” within 18 months.
But the process has been delayed on multiple occasions. Major armed rebel groups and opposition parties have boycotted it, calling the gathering of 1 400 delegates a “monologue” between the government and those friendly to it.
The dialogue aspires to represent all of Chadian society and opened in the capital N’Djamena last month but has not begun its main work due to the boycott.
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The work was due to be launched on Saturday, but the forum’s president Gali Ngothe Gatta suspended the sitting until Monday, an AFP journalist saw.
Gatta said he wanted to give more time to a committee working to persuade the boycotting groups to join the dialogue.
But main opposition coalition Wakit Tamma and FACT – one of Chad’s two main armed rebel groups – announced on Saturday their definitive boycott of the reconciliation process over “repression”.
Police and the army have surrounded the headquarters of the opposition Transformers party since Thursday and violently broken up its supporters’ gatherings.
Police arrested 84 young Transformers activists on Thursday after they organised a “caravan” in N’Djamena promoting a rally.
Another meeting was dispersed on Friday, with Transformers leader Succes Masra saying 164 of his followers had been imprisoned.
Police fired tear gas on young Transformers supporters who were trying to reach party headquarters on Saturday and arrested some of them, an AFP correspondent reported.
Soldiers and police officers are blocking access to the area and preventing journalists from working there, arresting them if they try to capture footage.