Chad arrests opposition leaders over anti-France protest

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Five opposition leaders were charged and jailed Monday in Chad for disturbing public order during a Saturday demonstration against France, accused of supporting the military junta, the N'Djamena prosecutor's office told AFP.

When President Idriss Déby Itno was killed more than a year ago at the front against rebels, his son General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno took over the reins of the country at the head of a group of 15 generals, who were immediately endorsed by the international community, with Paris in the lead, while other coup officers were subjected to its wrath and sanctions elsewhere in Africa.

Seven gas stations belonging to the French oil company Total were vandalized and 12 police officers injured Saturday during an anti-French demonstration by hundreds of people in N'Djamena, according to a police official who requested anonymity.

Five leaders of the main opposition coalition, Wakit Tamma, which organized the march, were arrested in the process.

Gounoung Vaima Gan-Fare, secretary general of the Union of Trade Unions of Chad, Youssouf Korom Ahmat, secretary general of the Chadian Merchants' Suppliers' Union, Massar Hissene Massar, president of the Gathering of Civil Society Leaders, Koudé Mbainassem, president of the Association for Freedom of Expression, and Allamine Adoudou Khatir, a former ambassador, "were charged with gathering causing public disorder, attacking the physical integrity of people, arson and destruction of property, placed under arrest warrant and incarcerated in the prison of Klessoum" in the capital, said Monday evening to AFP Moussa Wade Djibrine, prosecutor at the court of first instance in N'Djamena.

Wakit Tamma considers that they were wrongly arrested for "acts of vandalism" committed by others on the sidelines or after its demonstration and demands their immediate release.

Several opposition parties and rebel movements are also demanding their release.

"What happened yesterday is extremely serious (...), people will answer for their actions," warned Communication Minister Abderamane Koulamallah on Sunday evening.

"It is time for this to stop. It is also time to put an end to the false and unfounded allegations circulating about the redeployment of French forces inside the country," General Mahamat Déby, the self-proclaimed transitional president, said Monday in a security meeting.

The junta dissolved parliament, dismissed the government and abrogated the constitution when it announced the death of Idriss Déby on April 20, 2021. But it immediately promised "free and democratic elections" within 18 months, at the end of a National Reconciliation Dialogue.

Since then, this forum, which according to the head of state should bring together all political and armed opposition groups, has not been able to get off the ground, as the armed groups have not been able to reach an agreement with the junta in a "pre-dialogue" in Doha and the political opposition has withdrawn from its organization.

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