By Laura Hirahara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
N’DJAMENA, Chad– On Monday, Chad held presidential elections amid cries of voter fraud and an organized boycott by several opposition candidates. Though the results won’t be announced for another week, incumbent president Idriss Deby is almost certain to win after many of the candidates pulled themselves from the race. Deby faced just two opponents in the election after the withdrawal, a lawyer, Nadji Madou, and a former agriculture minister, Albert Pahimi Padackey, both relatively unknown and not expected to win.
Opposition leaders Abdelkader Wadal Kamougue, Ngarledjy Yorongar and Saleh Kebzabo have stated the elections are fraudulent due to the sale of voter cards. The cards, left over from a February legislative poll, could be found for sale before the election in the capital city markets. Since the cards were not designed for Monday’s election they are not official election material and use of them would constitute fraud. The opposition leaders called upon Deby to print new cards but were ignored. In calling for the boycott, Kamougue said, “We cannot possibly sanction this masquerade.” While the reaction of some was split, voter Djibrine Ibet, said “There is no point in voting in an election whose result is known in advance in any case. . .What hope is there when the party in power refuses to print new election cards because they are afraid of losing?”
On Saturday, Kamougue, Yorongar and Kebzabo held a rally with over 1,000 people in attendance. During the rally, a statement was read that appealed to the voters; “To vote on April 25 is to commit suicide. It is to self-destruct. . .[This is an a]ppeal to the people of Chad not to vote on April 25.” Some voters told reporters on election day that the fraudulent polls amounted to robbery. Monday’s election has long been under suspicion after some results from the February legislative vote were invalidated due to ‘irregularities’. In addition, this most recent election was delayed for three weeks and as voters turned out on Monday, witnesses in the capital of N’Djamena said that polling stations opened late and were lacking voting materials.
Deby has been in control of Chad since 1990 when he took power from Hissene Habre in a military coup. Since then he has been elected to four terms and resisted multiple coup attempts by rebels. The rebels entered the capital in 2008 before being forced from the city with the help of French military forces. Since then, Deby has reached a peace agreement with Sudan and the rebel groups that were located primarily in the Darfur region of Sudan that borders Chad.
Deby has brought changes to Chad, which consistently ranks as one of the world’s poorest countries, but some doubt the change is positive. In 2003, a 4 billion dollar pipeline was completed which allowed Chad to start producing oil. The World bank funded this project on the condition that the profits be used to build up impoverished Chadians. The agreement has since been abandoned after it was found that the government used the money elsewhere.
In response to the boycott, Deby called upon the 4.8 eligible voters in Chad to “fulfill their civic duty” and further stated that the only reason his opponents withdrew was because they knew they had no chance of winning. Speaking out against the vote, a coalition of rebel groups joined the boycott, calling Deby the “Sultan of Chad”.
For more information, please see;
BBC- Chad Opposition Boycotts Presidential Election– 25 April, 2011