Chad’s controversial post-coup constitutional referendum

Chad recently conducted a referendum on a new constitution, with the aim of paving the way for democratic elections next year. The country has been embroiled in political and security turmoil since the death of President Idriss Deby and the subsequent assumption of power by the military in 2021.

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FILE PHOTO: Members of the security forces patrol Chad's capital N'Djamena following the battlefield death of President Idriss Deby in N'Djamena, Chad April 26, 2021. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

Chad, one of the world’s most impoverished nations, has grappled with decades of instability and economic mismanagement, leading to significant dependence on humanitarian aid within its population.

The ongoing discourse has divided the populace, with some advocating for the decentralization of power and others expressing concerns about the potential for further division and conflict within the country.

The referendum has also faced criticism from former Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke, who has accused the junta of excessive control over the electoral process, casting doubts on the fairness and democratic nature of the referendum.

Amid these tensions, there are apprehensions that the referendum could lead to unrest akin to the pro-democracy protests in October 2022, which resulted in a significant loss of lives at the hands of security forces.

Furthermore, concerns have been raised that the referendum could serve to consolidate the power of Mahamat Idriss Deby, the leader of the current junta and son of the late President Idriss Deby, who has already extended the proposed 18-month transition to democracy.

The Africa-focused Institute for Security Studies has cautioned about the potential consequences of the referendum, emphasizing the need for a peaceful and inclusive process that safeguards the interests of all Chadians.

With approximately 8 million registered voters, the provisional results of the referendum are expected to be announced on December 24. However, the controversy surrounding the referendum has also highlighted the broader trend of military takeovers in West and Central Africa, raising concerns about the state of democracy in the region.

As Chad navigates the complexities of its post-coup transition, the stakes are undeniably high, with the outcome of the referendum carrying significant implications for the country’s political future and the wellbeing of its citizens.

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