Country Risk

Chadian crackdown on civil society and internet restrictions indicate president’s insecurities but Sudan-style overthrow unlikely

01 May 2019

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (left) receives Chadian counterpart Idriss Déby (centre-right) at Khartoum airport on 4 April. Bashir was ousted on 11 April. Source: Ebrahim Hamid/AFP/Getty Images

An opposition party coalition on 27 April accused the Chadian government of "completely blocking" political freedoms. The warning from the Coordination of Political Parties for the Defence of the Constitution (Coordination des partis politiques pour la défense de la constitution: CPDC) coalition that Chad is on the "edge of the abyss" comes as thousands of protesters in neighbouring Sudan demand the return of civilian rule following the 11 April military coup that ousted President Omar al-Bashir.

  • Civil society and opposition parties lack the power and numbers to mobilise a popular revolt. The CPDC warning follows a planned nationwide demonstration that was scheduled for 25 April against butane gas shortages, which have prevented households from cooking their food. The demonstration was organised by the civil society group Chadian Collective against the High Cost of Living (Collectif tchadien contre la vie chère: CTVC), which vowed to defy a government ban on the demonstration, but was forced to cancel it after the arrest of its leader, Djingamnayal Nelly Versinis. This recurring pattern of avowed defiance, and subsequent arrest of key activists leading to demonstrations being aborted, hampers the ability of civil society groups and opposition parties to mobilise large sections of society who are fearful of security forces' repression. Access to internet services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp in Chad has been blocked for over a year, preventing mobilisation via social media. Additionally, civil society organisations lack coherence, promoting confusion over what they represent. The Coalition of Civil Society Associations for Citizens' Action (Coalition des associations de la société civile pour l'action citoyenne: CASAC), for example, is pro-government and called on people to ignore the CTVC's call for a demonstration, warning it was a destabilisation attempt aimed at "transposing outside events" to Chad. For their part, political opposition parties are too divided to form a united front, and will likely have been further split by the Supreme Court's designation of a new opposition leader on 28 April to replace the long-standing Saleh Kebzabo.

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