LOME, Togo 

Although the race for the presidential elections in the landlocked north-central African country of Chad has kicked up, activists are asking for their cancellation in the wake of main opposition candidates withdrawing from the fray.

Scheduled on April 11, the polls have been marred with controversies that included President Idriss Deby Itno’s decision to run for the sixth term, and restrictions imposed on main opposition candidates.

President Deby Itno, 69, leader of the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), has been ruling the country since 1990 when he assumed power through a military coup.

His nomination sparked protests on the streets with three opposition candidates so far deciding to quit the race amid accusations of a security clampdown.

The home of opposition leader Notably Yaya Dillo whose nomination was rejected by the Supreme Court was raided by security forces on Feb. 28. Dillo, leader of Socialist Without Borders (PSF) party, claimed that his son and mother were killed during the raids.

The government, while admitting the death of two people said that the opposition leader and his men had launched an armed attack. Currently, he is in hiding and wanted by the police.

Another opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo of the National Union for Development and Renewal (UNDR) has also announced to stay away from the elections.

Describing current elections as nothing but a “charade”, he said that he will continue to oppose the president and his style of governance. He said tensions were simmering in the country, which may force the president to leave the office.

“We demand that these elections be canceled, because of assassination on Yaya Dillo and non-promulgation of modified electoral code, which constitutional court had sorted out,” said Djikodingam Maoundoe Decladore, a Chad-based whistleblower and human rights activist.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Kemba Didah Alain, national coordinator of the citizen movement, also called for the postponement of elections as there were no genuine candidates in the fray.

He said the nine candidates in the fray are “manufactured” and fielded by the incumbent president to make it appear a contest.

“The real opposition is the one that has withdrawn and is in the streets for over past two months protesting against the sixth term for President Deby Itno,” he said.

Alain said the country was experiencing a low development index and is suffering from injustices, lack of access to resources, opportunities, and the impunity enjoyed by those in power.

Diaspora bats for change

He said Deby Itno’s candidacy was too much to stomach for the people and asked for giving chance to others to lead the country.

Chadian diaspora also wants a change of face after the 30-years long rule of President Deby Itno.

“In over 30 years, Chad has not evolved but regressed. The country has not yet opened up, our major roads are impassable, the education system is scorned,” said Paris-based Chadian artist, who has named himself Garzab the rebel and uses music to express discontent.

The election campaign so far has been spoiled by restrictions with arrests and raids on the premises of opposition leaders.

“The encirclement of the premises of opposition parties has restricted their movement. It is an illegal measure that violates the rights to freedom of association and movement guaranteed by the country’s constitution and international law,” reported Amnesty International, the global rights watchdog.

Alain said only government supporters are allowed to hold public meetings, while others are imprisoned. He said he was himself arrested last year in December for organizing a citizen’s forum.

“Earlier also on several occasions, I escaped arrest and kidnapping. I was kidnapped in May 2017 by the National Security Agency. Almost a month later, they handed me over to the public prosecutor. I was falsely accused of having contacts with rebel groups. I had simply raised alarms and investigated massacres in the town of Gore,” Decladore said.

Although he was later released due to his health condition, he is still awaiting judicial trial. He said activists like him are tailed by intelligence agents and harassed. He contradicted the president’s claims that the electoral campaign is based on “peace, stability, and fraternal harmony”. He said that in absence of any credible opposition and the climate of fear, the victory of Deby Itno is a forgone conclusion.

Alain said that UNDP’s 2019 report is itself a reflection on his 30-years of rule, which has ranked Chad at 187th among 189 countries in the human development index.

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