Freedom in the World
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Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In May 2009, less than a week after the governments of Chad and Sudan signed an accord on normalizing their relations, a new alliance of Chadian rebel groups launched an offensive from bases in Sudan’s Darfur region. Chadian and Sudanese officials met again in October to reaffirm their commitment to peace. A UN peacekeeping mission replaced a European Union force in eastern Chad in March, but as of September the UN force still had less than half of the recommended personnel.
Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Chad has been beset by civil conflict and rebellions.Hissene Habre seized control in 1982 and led a one-party dictatorship characterized by widespread atrocities against individuals and ethnic groups that were 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.
Deby won a presidential election held under a new constitution in 1996 despite the ongoing threat of rebel violence. In 1997 legislative elections, Deby’s Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party won 65 of the 125 seats. International observers charged that both elections were marred by irregularities.
Deby was reelected president in 2001, and the six opposition candidates were briefly detained for alleging that the election results were fraudulent. The MPS secured 110 seats in the recently enlarged, 155-seat National Assembly during the 2002 legislative elections, which were boycotted by several opposition parties. Voters approved the elimination of presidential term limits in a 2005 constitutional referendum, although the balloting featured irregularities and the government cracked down on the media during the campaign.
Security forces, assisted by French intelligence and air support, repelled an April 2006 attack on the capital by the United Front for Change (FUC) rebel group. The May presidential election was then held on schedule despite an opposition boycott, and Deby secured a third term. The military, again with French support, launched a new assault on rebel forces in September, and in November the government declared a six-month state of emergency for the capital and most of the east, including a ban on media coverage of sensitive issues.
Several hundred Chadians were killed in March 2007 attacks that the government attributed to Sudanese and Chadian Arab militias. The government and four rebel groups reached an agreement to end fighting in early October 2007, but renewed clashes soon erupted between the government and several rebel alliances.
In early February 2008, a formation of some 2,000 rebel fighters attacked the capital. Although the two sides soon agreed on a ceasefire and the rebels withdrew, Deby declared a state of emergency, suspending due process rights and tightening already harsh media restrictions. Human rights groups accused the regime of extrajudicial detention and killing of suspected rebels, their supporters, and members of the Goran ethnic group, some of whom were involved in the rebel assault. Three prominent opposition politicians—Lol Mahamat Choua, Ngarjely Yorongar, and Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh—were arrested during the attack. Choua was later released and then placed under house arrest, while Yorongar was freed and ultimately received asylum in France, and Saleh was revealed to have died in custody. The state of emergency was lifted on March 15, but fighting continued in the east during the year.
Deby and Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir continued to trade accusations in 2008 that one was supporting rebels on the other’s territory. Al-Bashir cut diplomatic ties with Chad in May following a rebel attack on Khartoum that al-Bashir accused Deby of supporting, but the Sudanese leader agreed to restore ties at a meeting in July.
On May 3, 2009, the Chadian and Sudanese governments signed an accord aimed at normalizing relations between the two countries. However, less than a week later, the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR)—an alliance of eight rebel groups that had formed in January—launched an attack from its base in Sudan’s Darfur region. Violence along the border increased over the subsequent months, and in July Chadian planes bombed targets in Darfur. Also in July, the government signed a peace agreement with a coalition of smaller rebel groups, the National Movement, which had been active in eastern Chad. In October Chadian and Sudanese authorities met again and reaffirmed their commitment to “definitive peace.”
After years of regular fighting in the region, Chad is now home to some 180,000 internally displaced persons as well as more than 320,000 refugees from Darfur and the Central African Republic. The UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), formed in 2007 to help care for and protect these civilians, added a military component in March 2009 to take over the responsibilities of a parallel European Union peacekeeping force (EUFOR). However, as of September, the new UN force had less than half of the 5,200 personnel recommended for the mission.
Chad remains mired in poverty despite its substantial oil revenues. In September 2008, the World Bank withdrew from a project launched in 2001 in which the bank financed development of the oil sector and Chad agreed to invest the revenue in poverty-alleviation projects. The Chadian government had repeatedly sought greater control over revenues, and the bank had suspended loans for half of 2006 due to breaches of the agreement.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties:
Chad is not an electoral democracy. The country has never experienced a free and fair transfer of power through elections. The president is elected for five-year terms, and a 2005 constitutional amendment abolished term limits. The 2006 presidential election was held shortly after a rebel assault on the capital despite calls for a postponement. Many opposition members boycotted the balloting, which was reportedly marred by irregularities, and voter turnout may have been as low as 10 percent in some areas. The executive branch dominates the judicial and legislative branches, and the president appoints the prime minister. The unicameral National Assembly consists of 155 members elected for four-year terms. The last legislative elections, in 2002, also featured widespread irregularities. The legislative elections originally due in 2006 have been repeatedly postponed; they are currently scheduled for 2010.
There are over 70 political parties, although a number were created by the government to divide the opposition. Only the ruling MPS has significant 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 systems, 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. Chad was ranked 175 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Freedom of expression is severely restricted, and self-censorship is common. Broadcast media are controlled by the state. The High Council of Communication (HCC) exerts control over the content of most radio broadcasts, and while there are roughly a dozen private stations, they face high licensing fees and the threat of closure for critical coverage. Following the 2008 rebel attack on the capital, the government imposed a new press law that increased the maximum penalty for false news and defamation to three years in prison, and the maximum penalty for insulting the president to five years. It also requires permission from both the prosecutor’s office and the HCC to establish a newspaper. Meanwhile, the HCC banned reporting on the activities of rebels or any other information that could harm national unity. A small number of private newspapers have circulated in the capital, and internet access is not restricted, but the reach of both print and online media is limited by poverty, illiteracy, and inadequate infrastructure. In October 2009, Cameroonian-born editor Innocent Ebode was expelled for writing a column that criticized a minister’s suggestion that President Deby be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. After the government ordered the suspension of his newspaper, La Voix, Ebode returned to Ndjamena to challenge the ruling. Ebode was abducted from his home in December and was reportedly being held at the Cameroonian border.
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 the pilgrimage to Mecca. At the same time, the authorities have banned Muslim groups that are seen as promoting violence, and security forces clashed with supporters of a radical Islamist preacher in 2008. The government does not restrict academic freedom.
Despite the constitutional guarantee of free assembly, the authorities ban demonstrations by groups thought to be critical of the government. Insecurity in the east and south has severely hindered the activities of humanitarian organizations in recent years. The constitution guarantees the rights to strike and unionize, but a 2007 law imposed new limits on public-sector workers’ right to strike.
The rule of law and the judicial system remain weak, with courts heavily influenced by the political leadership. Former president Hissene Habre was sentenced to death in absentia—along with 11 suspected rebel leaders—by a Chadian court in August 2008; an additional 31 suspected rebels received life sentences. Habre, who lives in exile in Senegal, was scheduled to face a trial there for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during his presidency. However, in its first ruling in December 2009, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.
Civilian leaders do not maintain effective control of the security forces, which routinely ignore constitutional protections regarding search, seizure, and detention. Human rights groups credibly accuse the 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.
Clashes are common between Christian farmers of the various southern ethnic groups 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.
The government restricts the movement of citizens within the country, a practice that has increased in tandem with the civil conflicts. In February 2008, Deby called for the destruction of “illegal” structures in N’Djamena, and Amnesty International estimates that 3,700 homes in the city were demolished by January 2009. Most affected residents received no warning, compensation, or alternative housing.
The 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. UNICEF and the Red Cross demanded that the government release 80 child soldiers who were captured during a May 2009 battle.
Chadian women face widespread discrimination and violence. Female genital mutilation is illegal but routinely practiced by several ethnic groups. Chad is a source, transit, and destination country for child trafficking, and the government has not made significant efforts to eliminate the problem. The U.S. State Department demoted Chad to Tier 3, the worst-possible rating, in its 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report.