Children react past a mural poster of Chad’s late president Idriss Deby in a street in Ndjamena on April 24, 2021, a day after his funeral.
(ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images)
The Bishops of Chad, in Central Africa, have called for an “inclusive national dialogue” in the wake of the death of President Idriss Déby, who was killed last week in clashes with rebels.
Déby’s son, 37-year-old General Mahamat Déby Itno, has stepped into the leadership vacuum, establishing a military council to lead the country for 18 months, when new elections will be held.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council has expressed “grave concern” over the takeover and called on the military to restore power to civilian leaders “expeditiously.”
Bishops share ‘anxieties and hopes’ of the people
In a press release issued last week during the Plenary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference, the Bishops say they “share the anxieties and hopes of the Chadian people who are currently writing a delicate and decisive page in their history.”
Writing on behalf of the entire Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Goetbé Edomndo Djitanger, the Metropolitan of N’Djamena, wrote, “To our people, worried about the present and the future, we address the message of healing of the Risen Christ: Peace be with you.”
He prayed that “the hearts of Chadian women and men receive this message of peace and not be troubled, because the Easter season brings the promise of rebirth and victory.” But he warned that the current situation of the country “challenges us all and demands from each Chadian a deep conversion, a true change of heart,” which he said is an indispensable condition for reconciliation and lasting peace.
A dialogue of reconciliation
The Bishops said they hoped that a “dialogue of reconciliation” carried out by “a politically independent, credible, and neutral body” would allow all Chadians “to lay the foundations of a new, consensual political order based on respect for individuals, concern for the common good, and the promotion of social justice.”
Chad’s Bishops say that a national dialogue is a “necessity for the lasting peace in the country.” For such a dialogue to have a successful conclusion, they insist on the need for “all belligerents to unilaterally” declare an unconditional ceasefire and enter into talks; and for the transition to a new civilian government “be conducted with strict respect for the constitutional order.”
The Bishops commit the “Church-Family of God” in Chad to making its contribution to “this inclusive national dialogue of reconciliation,” and call on Catholics and believers of other religions “to intensify prayers of petition and supplication, so that God may root in the heart of each Chadian the will for dialogue, reconciliation, fraternity, and peace.” By doing so, they maintain, “we can better resist the demons of violence and build a new Chad.”
Efforts at mediation
The military council leading the country has thus far resisted calls for peace. A spokesman for the military said on Sunday, “The time is not for mediation, nor for negotiation with outlaws.”
The rebel group “Front for Change and Concord in Chad” – known by its French initials as FACT – launched an assault from Libya on 11 April, intent on ending Idriss Déby’s thirty-year rule. Chad’s military leadership says Déby was killed while leading troops against the rebel incursion.
A FACT spokesman told the Reuters news agency the rebel group “is ready to observe a ceasefire for a political settlement that respects the independence and sovereignty of Chad and does not endorse a coup d’état.”
The African Union and the United Nations are both engaged in talks with the various parties in the conflict. Reuters has reported that support is growing for a civilian president with a vice president or prime minister from the military.