Mass protests against the imposition of military rule in Chad following the sudden death of the country’s long-ruling president have turned deadly.
Hospital workers in the capital N'Djamena told Reuters that at least two people have died and dozens were injured as thousands of protesters took to the streets on Tuesday to demand democratic elections. It is not clear exactly how the protesters were killed or injured.
The demonstrations came exactly one week after the sudden death of President Idriss Déby who, the army claims, was killed while leading frontline troops battling Libya-based rebel groups.
The 68-year-old had served as president of the central African nation for 31 years and had only just won reelection to a sixth term days before his sudden death.
Following Déby’s death, his son, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, was appointed the head of a military council that announced it would govern Chad for 18 months. The military council has since dissolved the national assembly and all branches of government.
In anticipation of today’s events, the military council extended a ban yesterday on all public demonstrations, first put in place during the recent presidential campaign. The military council also announced the appointment of a civilian interim prime minister, Albert Pahimi Padacke – an appointment that was quickly dismissed by opposition groups because Padacke is a former prime minister and believed ally to Déby.
Still, the US government has welcomed Padacke’s appointment but warned that the move must be the first in many steps towards civilian rule.
“We have been and continue to advocate for a peaceful and democratic transition to a civilian-led government,” said Robert Godec, the US State Department’s acting assistant secretary for African affairs, in a press conference. “We’ve long stood with the people of Chad in advocating for democratic and representative government. The naming of a civilian prime minister is potentially a positive first step in restoring civilian governance.”
French President Emmanuel Macron attended the state funeral for Chad's late president. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The French government, meanwhile, has thrown its support behind the military council now governing its former colony, leading to French flags being burned and anti-France slogans chanted at Tuesday’s demonstrations.