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In Doha, will the Chadian "pre-dialogue" really take place?

Chad

After a first suspension on Sunday, due to disagreements between the government and Chad's opponents, the "pre-dialogue" taking place in Qatar was again suspended on Wednesday.

A first round of negotiations was to begin last Friday in Doha, between the Transitional Military Council (CMT) of Chad - represented by the "civilian" government - and the opponents.

A "pre-dialogue" considered as the prelude to the real national dialogue in N'Djamena scheduled for next May, which is more important than it seems: it must in fact enable a large part of the Chadian political scene with a view to holding elections before the end of the transition.

The latter, estimated at 18 months since the entry into office of the son of the late President Idriss Déby Itno, Mahamat Déby, should theoretically last until next December. However, without compromise, it is a safe bet that the transition will be extended for another 18 months, postponing future elections to mid-2024.

On both sides — both authorities and opposition — the success of this "pre-dialogue" is essential. For the head of the CMT and interim president, Mahamat Déby, it is a question of respecting the conditions of Western support for his coup after the death of his father. For the opponents, the challenge is to finally make their entry on the political scene – for some, even, to simply be able to return to the country – or to ensure the release of their fighters.

However, this “pre-dialogue” seems to turn into a fiasco. A first report took place, between Friday and Sunday. The rebel group Front for Alternation and Concord in Chad (FACT) had left the talks, the time that some details are settled urgently.

What are FACT's demands?

Details which, for the FACT, are not: the movement denounced in particular the marginalization of the organizer of the summit, the former Chadian president Goukouni Weddeye, but also deplored the absence of a mediator.

The armed group affirms, on behalf of the other politico-military opposition groups, that it is impossible to dialogue with the CMT in the absence of a safeguard. In particular, FACT demands that Qatar specify its role in the negotiations.

The opening ceremony was therefore stopped and the "pre-dialogue" suspended for 72 hours, the time to bring FACT back to the negotiating table, but also to set up official moderation, in order to avoid the monologues of political leaders like last Sunday.

FACT also called for a reduction in the number of opposition representatives to the main groups concerned, in order to avoid “diluting their voices in the negotiation”.

Clearly unable to resolve all these issues in three days, the assembly announced on Wednesday a new suspension, this time for 48 hours.

Declarations… and then?

In addition to its importance for the respect of reasonable deadlines for the Chadian transition, the dialogue between the CMT and the opposition is essential for the stability of Chad.

According to Chadian transport magnate Abdoulaye Adoum, "Chadians are hoping for a new start, it remains to be seen whether the negotiators will be serious and sincere". And to continue: “They will discuss, they will sign resolutions or declarations, but they will find obstacles to their execution. We have always been good at writing declarations, but not at applying them”.

The international NGO Crisis Group (ICG), represented in Doha by its director of the Central Africa project Enrica Picco, declared that the success of the Chadian dialogue would have a real impact on the transition, but also on the integrity of Chad.

According to Picco, three topics should be on the agenda when the talks resume: first, the release of prisoners from armed groups. In December, Mahamat Déby pardoned 300 rebels, without any FACT leader being included in the amnesty.

Then, it will be a matter of finding a solution to the integration of the Erdimi brothers, rebel leaders of the Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) and the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), into the dialogue. The latter were excluded at the end of February after the leak of a recording in which we hear Timan Erdimi, the eldest, installed in Qatar precisely, evoke the overthrow of Mahamat Déby, with the help of the Russian group Wagner in particular.

Finally, the last thorny subject will concern the return of Chadian fighters from Libya. The number of these fighters, hired as mercenaries by Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, then by the various political actors since, is not known. Corn they had, in August 2021, mandated Goukouni Weddeye to negotiate their return to Chad.

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