Chad declares emergency in east after dozens die in ethnic violence
Fifty people have died in intercommunal clashes since early August
Chad’s President Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency in two eastern provinces on Sunday and authorised summary shooting to “save the majority” after clashes killed dozens this month.
The state of emergency will run for three months in the Sila and Ouaddai regions bordering Sudan, where 50 people have died since August 9 in fighting between Arab herdsmen and settled farmers, the president’s office said.
“From now, we will deploy military forces who are going to ensure the security of the population in the region,” Mr Deby said on a trip to Sila. “We must disarm all the civilians who have weapons in their hands.
“If there is still fighting between Arabs and Ouaddaians. You shoot 10 from each side to save the majority. You have authorisation.”
Mr Deby’s comments sparked condemnation from the Chad Convention for Human Rights, which said in a statement it was “scandalised by the call to massacre civilians”.
The rights group said it was demanding “an immediate halt to these abuses and believes that the responsibility for the genocide that is being prepared will rest with President Deby”.
Eastern Chad is in the grip of a cycle of violence between nomadic camel herders and farmers from the Ouaddaian community.
Herders have for decades moved their livestock through the Ouaddai region in rotation between summer and winter pastures.
Most of the animals belong to the president’s Zaghawa ethnic group, and the farmers say they often escape censure when unrest breaks out between the two sides.
Similar conflicts erupt in other African states, notably Nigeria.
Drought and population growth have aggravated the conflict, while weapons from conflict-stricken neighbours have made it even more deadly.
Mr Deby this month blamed the surge in violence partly on an influx of guns from neighbouring Libya, Central African Republic and Sudan.
“The government has created special disarmament units,” he said. “We take away the weapons but the next day more arrive.”
Mr Deby described the violence as a “national concern”.
“We are witnessing a terrible phenomenon,” he said.
“Those with guns are not hesitating to shoot the police. We must wage a total war against those who carry weapons and are killing people.”
Legislative elections in Chad are due by the end of the year. They have been delayed several times since 2015 as Mr Deby, who grabbed power in 1990, tries to maintain his hold.
He hinted in June that military courts could be reintroduced to curb unrest, a suggestion denounced by the country’s opposition.
Military justice, applied to civilians and the armed forces, was abolished in Chad in 1993. In 2016, the country also scrapped the death penalty, except for “terrorism”.
Mr Deby said the decades-long conflict over land in Ouaddai had spread since the start of this year to other regions in which the communities used to live side by side in an “exemplary” manner.
He said that in Sila, more than 40 people had been killed since January.
Updated: August 19, 2019 10:01 AM