Dubai, United Arab Emirates –
Chad’s military government and more than 40 rebel groups signed a compromise Monday in Qatar ahead of planned national reconciliation talks, though the deal did not include the country’s main opposition group.
Under the terms of the agreement in Doha, the signatories agreed to a ceasefire ahead of talks scheduled for August 20 in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena. Chad’s junta also agreed “not to carry out any military or police operations against the signatory groups” in neighboring countries.
However, the Front for Change and Harmony in Chad, the country’s main rebel group, did not sign the pledge. The shadowy group, known by its French acronym FACT, is blamed for the 2021 assassination of Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno, who ruled the country since 1990.
That immediately called into question whether the deal would be enough to ensure the success of the talks as the planned 18-month transition from military rule to democracy draws to a close.
We hope that “other groups will join the march of reconciliation and peace, with a view to achieving the aspirations and dreams of the Chadian people,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the gathered for the signing ceremony. “The initial peace agreement that we are celebrating today will be a major turning point towards the stability and prosperity of the Chadian people.”
“It is no secret that the negotiations faced many challenges which were addressed thanks to your esteemed efforts,” added Sheikh Mohammed.
The European Union praised the signed commitment as “an important step for the transition” and urged all parties to join together to speed up the return to “constitutional order” in Chad.
“This would allow the launch of a truly inclusive national dialogue, which should start without further delay,” the EU said.
Talks began in March in Qatar. Challengers during the negotiations include some 20 rebel groups who walked out of the talks in July, accusing the military government of Deby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, 38, of “harassment, intimidation, threats and disinformation” amid negotiations. .
The rebels have asked Deby to declare that he will not stand in the next election, though the military junta has insisted that can only be decided in national dialogue talks. The pledge signed Monday in Qatar by 42 of the 47 Chadian rebel groups involved in the talks did not include any ban on Deby running in the upcoming elections.
In a statement before the ceremony, FACT said it rejected the deal because those participating in the national dialogue would not be treated equally and that it also wanted rebel prisoners released. However, he maintained that he was ready for further talks.
Chad’s Foreign Minister Mahamat Zene Cherif also signed the agreement on behalf of his country, although Deby had been in Doha on Saturday to meet Qatar’s ruling emir ahead of the signing ceremony.
Chad had been frustrated by Deby’s father’s 30-year rule, which sparked years of rebel uprisings in the former French colony that borders Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan. Unrest in neighboring countries has driven Chadian rebel forces into hiding across the border.
Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.