Freedom in the World
You are here
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Chad's political rights rating declined from 6 to 7 due to increased corruption associated with a lack of transparency in the management of oil revenues.
Between January and April 2007, as many as 30,000 Chadians fled across the border to Sudan’s Darfur region to escape militia attacks and communal violence. In September, the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the establishment of a joint United Nations–European Union peacekeeping mission to Chad and the Central African Republic. Renewed fighting erupted in late October between the government and members of the United Front for Change (FUC) rebel group. The government that month declared a state of emergency for three regions in the north and east in response to continuing ethnic conflict. Fighting in the east of the country between Chadian authorities and several rebel groups continued at year’s end. Corruption related to the use of oil revenue remained a significant problem during the year as Chadian authorities continued to divert resources away from poverty alleviation activities for security purposes.
Civil conflict and rebellions have been common in Chad since it gained independence from France in 1960. In 1982, Hissene Habre seized control of the government and led a one-party dictatorship characterized by widespread atrocities against individuals and ethnic groups perceived as threats to the regime. In 1989, Idriss Deby, a military commander, launched a rebellion against Habre from Sudan. With support from Libya and no opposition from French troops stationed in Chad, Deby overthrew Habre in 1990.
Voters approved a new constitution in a March 1996 referendum, and presidential elections were held in June and July, despite the ongoing threats posed by rebel insurgencies. Deby won with nearly 70 percent of the second-round vote. In legislative elections held the following year, members of his Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party won 65 of the National Assembly’s 125 seats. International observers charged that both elections were beset by irregularities.
In 2001, Deby was reelected president with more than 63 percent of the vote. Alleging fraud, the six opposition candidates called for the results to be annulled and were briefly arrested. Political protests continued despite the government’s ban on gatherings of more than 20 people. The number of seats in the National Assembly had been increased to 155 in 2000, and MPS candidates secured a firm majority of 110 seats in the 2002 legislative elections, although several opposition parties boycotted the polls. A constitutional referendum to eliminate presidential term limits passed in June 2005 with just under 66 percent of the vote. There were reports of irregularities, however, and the government cracked down on independent media during the campaign period.
Tensions rose sharply before the May 2006 presidential election, and several officials defected from Deby’s government to join dissident groups in eastern Chad. In April, rebel forces backed by the Sudanese government launched an attack on the capital. With the aid of French intelligence and aircraft, the government fended off the rebels, and the presidential election was held on schedule despite an opposition boycott and calls for postponement. Deby secured a third term with just under 65 percent of the vote. French forces assisted the government in a renewed assault against the rebels in September 2006. The subsequent fighting led many international humanitarian organizations to withdraw staff from the region in November and December. The government declared a six-month state of emergency in November for most of the eastern part of the country and the capital. The declaration included a ban on media coverage of sensitive issues, which prompted privately owned newspapers to suspend publication and radio stations to alter programming in protest.
Chad continued to experience widespread insecurity in 2007. The United Nations estimated that between January and April, as many as 30,000 Chadians fled to Sudan’s Darfur region to escape militia attacks and communal violence in eastern Chad. In March, between 200 and 400 Chadians were killed in the southeastern villages of Tiero and Marena in attacks the Chadian government attributed to Sudanese janjaweed and Chadian Arab militias. Meanwhile, beginning in January, over 1,700 refugees fled to Chad to escape fighting between government and rebel forces in the Central African Republic (CAR). The United Nations reported that the refugee population in Chad at the end of 2006 already numbered about 300,000, consisting of Sudanese fleeing violence in Darfur, CAR citizens fleeing their home country, and internally displaced Chadians. In an added blow to these groups, the activities of humanitarian organizations in eastern Chad were hampered by severe flooding beginning in August 2007.
In September 2007, the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the establishment of a joint United Nations–European Union peacekeeping mission to Chad and the CAR. By year’s end, the mission had not yet deployed due to burden-sharing disagreements among European Union (EU) member states. In early October, the Chadian government and four rebel groups reached an agreement to end fighting. Within weeks, however, renewed clashes erupted between the government and members of the United Front for Change (FUC), the rebel group responsible for the April 2006 assault on the capital. In response to continuing interethnic fighting, the government on October 16 declared a state of emergency for three regions in the north and east. Fighting in the east of the country continued at year’s end between the Chadian government and rebel groups, including the FUC, the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), and the Rally of Forces for Change (RFC).
Relations between the Chadian and Sudanese governments remained strained following an April 2006 rupture over accusations that Sudan had increased support for Chadian rebels. An agreement reached in August 2006 called for each country to expel rebel groups that launched cross-border attacks on the other’s territory, but tensions mounted over the Sudanese government’s claim that Chadian forces had killed 17 Sudanese soldiers in April 2007 while pursuing Chadian rebels over the border. The two sides in May concluded an agreement aimed at stopping cross-border incursions.
The government announced in June that local elections, originally scheduled for 2005, would be held in 2008. In August 2007, the government and opposition groups agreed to reform the organization of legislative elections and conduct a new census. The legislative elections were postponed until 2009.
Despite its mineral wealth, including hundreds of millions of dollars in oil revenues earned since 2004, Chad is one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. In return for World Bank financing of loans to cover its stake in the oil industry, Chad had initially promised to spend 80 percent of its oil revenue on development projects and to set aside 10 percent for future generations. Since 2005, however, the government has sought greater control over oil revenues, increasing the potential for corruption related to the use of oil revenue. In January 2006, the World Bank suspended loans following the government’s announcement that it would eliminate the fund for future generations. An agreement was reached in July 2006 that required Chad to devote 70 percent of its budget to poverty-reduction programs. However, under the terms of the new agreement, spending on security is permitted as a poverty-reduction activity. An international arrest warrant issued in Belgium in 2005 charged former president Habre with crimes against humanity dating to his 1982–90 dictatorship, and the African Union ruled in 2006 that he could be prosecuted in Senegal, where he lives in exile. By year’s end, Senegalese authorities were finalizing trial preparations with the assistance of EU member states. In December, six French aid workers with the nongovernmental organization Zoe’s Ark, who were arrested in late October for the trafficking of 103 children and sentenced to eight years of hard labor, were returned to France to serve their sentences.
Chad is not an electoral democracy. The country has never experienced a free and fair transfer of power through elections. The constitution provides for the direct election of the president every five years. An amendment passed in 2005 abolished term limits. The last presidential election was held on schedule in May 2006 despite opposition calls for a postponement. Many opposition members boycotted the election, and observers charged that there were irregularities. Voter turnout figures were widely disputed, and may have been as low as 10 percent in some areas. The unicameral National Assembly consists of 155 members elected for four-year terms. The last legislative election, in April 2002, was also marked by widespread irregularities. The prime minister is appointed by the president.
The August 2007 political accord on the organization of elections mandated that future votes be conducted and monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), composed of 15 members from the governing party and 15 from the opposition. In past elections, representatives and allies of the ruling party have dominated the electoral commission.
There are over 70 political parties in Chad, although a number of parties were created by the government to divide the opposition. Parties other than the ruling MPS have limited influence. Despite rivalries within President Idriss Deby’s northeastern Zaghawa ethnic group, members of that and other northern ethnic groups continue to control Chad’s political and economic levers, causing resentment among the country’s more than 200 other ethnic groups.
Corruption is rampant within Deby’s inner circle. Weaknesses in revenue management and oversight facilitate the diversion of oil revenues from national development projects to private interests as well as growing military expenditures, which amount to at least 12 percent of the budget. The government’s decision in late 2005 to amend provisions of the oil law and assert greater control over revenues has increased opportunities for graft. Chad was ranked 172 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Freedom of expression is increasingly restricted in Chad, and self-censorship is common. There are at least four private weekly newspapers that circulate in the capital and carry articles critical of the government, but these have limited influence on the overwhelmingly illiterate population. Radio is the principal source of news, and broadcast media are controlled by the state. The High Council of Communications, Chad’s media regulatory body, exerts control over the content of most radio broadcasts and restricts private outlets through high licensing fees and closures for coverage deemed inappropriate. There are roughly a dozen private radio stations, and in addition to state-owned Telechad, the first privately owned television station was launched in September 2007.
Radio Brakos, a small independent station, has been repeatedly closed by the government. The authorities have arrested members of its staff, including the station manager, who was imprisoned in April 2006 for advocating the postponement of the presidential election. In March 2007, a court in N’Djamena sentenced the director of the bimonthly Le Mirroir to a six-month suspended prison term for accusing a Catholic priest of corruption. The general censorship decree issued in November 2006 in connection with rebel activity in the east was lifted in May 2007. Nonetheless, journalists attempting to cover events in eastern Chad do so at great personal risk, and several have been abducted by rebel or government forces. There are no restrictions on internet access, but the government reportedly monitors online communications.
Although Chad is a secular state, religion is a divisive force. Muslims, who make up slightly more than half of the population, hold a disproportionately large number of senior government posts, and some policies favor Islam in practice, such as government sponsorship of hajj trips to Mecca. Islamic congregations are thought to receive preferential treatment when requesting approval for certain activities. The government does not restrict academic freedom.
Despite the constitutional guarantee of free assembly, Chadian authorities restrict this right through bans on demonstrations by groups thought to be critical of the government. Despite harassment and occasional physical intimidation, Chadian human rights groups operate openly and publish findings critical of the government. However, the worsening security situation in N’Djamena and parts of eastern and southern Chad in 2007 has made it increasingly difficult for members of these groups to carry out their activities.
The constitution guarantees the rights to strike and unionize, which are generally respected in practice. Civil servants in 2006 were successful in negotiating a wage increase with the government. A general strike launched by public sector workers in May 2007 led to the closure of schools and hospitals, but it was suspended in August after the government announced a 15 percent salary increase and pension improvements.
The rule of law and the judicial system remain weak, with courts heavily influenced by the executive branch. Civilian authorities do not maintain effective control of the security forces, which routinely ignore constitutional protections regarding search, seizure, and detention. Human rights groups credibly accuse Chadian security forces and rebel groups of killing and torturing with impunity. Overcrowding, disease, and malnutrition make prison conditions harsh, and many inmates are held for years without charge.
Interethnic clashes are common between Christian farmers of the various Nilotic and Bantu ethnic groups, who generally inhabit the south, and Muslim Arab groups living largely in the north. Turmoil linked to ethnic and religious differences is exacerbated by clan rivalries and external interference along the insecure borders. Communal tensions in eastern Chad have worsened due to the proliferation of small arms and ongoing disputes over the use of land and water resources. Reports of armed violence and vandalism throughout Chad are on the rise.
The government restricts the movement of citizens within the country, a practice that has increased in tandem with the civil conflicts. The Chadian army and its paramilitary forces, as well as rebel forces, have recruited child soldiers. The government has been slow to follow through on its agreement to demobilize them.
Chadian women face widespread discrimination and violence. Female genital mutilation is illegal but routinely practiced by several ethnic groups. Abortion is prohibited, with exceptions to preserve the health of the mother or in cases of fetal impairment. Prostitution, also illegal, has increased in the southern oil-producing region. Chad is a source, transit, and destination country for child trafficking, and the government has not made significant efforts to eliminate the problem.