Home | News    Tuesday 14 August 2007

Chad govt, opposition agree ’historic’ deal

August 13,2007 (NDJAMENA ) — Chad’s government and opposition agreed Monday to put off elections until 2009 and to share some power in the meantime, in a deal described by EU mediators as a "historic chance" for peace there.

The accord followed six months of negotiations between the Patriotic Salvation Movement of President Idriss Deby Itno, which dominates the national assembly, and most opposition parties.

It allows for elections to be put off from next December to enable new computerised and tamper-proof electoral lists to be drawn up and biometric voters’ cards to be issued to prevent fraud.

In the meantime the opposition, headed by the Coordination for the Defence of the Constitution (CPDC) which groups some 20 parties, including four in parliament, will take part in the government and in "public activities".

The Action Federation for the Republic (FAR), which has seats in parliament, was the only major opposition bloc not to have signed the agreement.

At the formal signing ceremony at the presidential palace in Ndjamena, attended by European Union diplomats and other officials, Deby praised the deal as a "memorable step towards peace between Chadians".

"An agreement between sons of the same country is always a promising event. A deal between political parties is even more encouraging because it offers citizens who want to express themselves a positive way to do so, which is more constructive than taking up arms," he said.

The Portuguese presidency of the EU, which brokered the negotiations, said the deal represented a "historic chance for Chadians to move towards peace, stability and development by clearly and definitively rejecting violence".

In a statement, it said it was a "major advance in the restoration of political confidence and the consolidation of the democratic process in Chad".

The history of the central African country has been marked by political violence and instability.

Deby seized power by force in 1990, was re-elected in 1996 and 2001 and then changed the constitution so he could stand for a third term in May 2006 presidential polls, which he won with a large majority.

The CPDC and FAR boycotted the 2006 elections, declaring them a "masquerade", and refused to join the "national dialogue" talks that followed.

But Saleh Kebzaboh, president of the UNDR which is a member of the CPDC opposition coalition, said Monday’s agreement offered "hope" for Chad.

"Everything that political parties wanted for elections in terms of transparency, we have obtained," he said.

Jean Bawoyeu Alingue, president of another coalition member, the UDR, said: "We must put this deal in place so future elections will be transparent for everyone."

Other parts of the accord include the establishment of a new electoral commission with equal representation of the government and opposition.

Defence and security officers are also to vote "a day before other citizens, outside of barracks, in voting stations supervised by civilians", it says.

The agreement does not concern the rebel groups who have been fighting Chad’s armed forces along the border with Sudan since the end of 2005, and who Ndjamena accuses the Sudanese government in Khartoum of supporting.