| Democratic Process
This section has been updated
by Mr Boubacar Issa Abdourhamane,
a doctorate student at the CEAN, IEP Montesquieu University of Bordeaux
Civil War broke out in Chad
in October 1965, a war that almost destroyed the State and is not yet quite over: in
different regions there are armed political-military movements that continue to oppose the
government in place in NDjaména, which is far from controlling the whole of the
national territory. Such a situation is hardly ideal for real democratisation. The regime
of Hissein Habré (1982-1990) in particular was known for its authoritarian tendencies and
its lack of respect for human rights.
On 1 December 1990, Colonel (now General) Idriss Déby overthrew his predecessor. Unlike the previous warlords, he promised at the beginning of his rule to take the country to democracy. Since then, there has been a slow, hesitant transition towards democracy. In December 1990, the independent press was allowed to develop; in January 1992, political parties were authorised and, from 15 January to 7 April 1993, a Sovereign National Conference held its sessions. It wrote up a Transition Charter and made many recommendations. These concern the fact that the President should remain in office, that a high council (CST) should be set up for the interim period with 57 members elected by the Conference and that a Prime Minister should be elected by the CST and should be answerable to that body.
The Prime Minister was actually elected on 6 April. The interim period leading up to free presidential and parliamentary elections was supposed in principle to last just one year, but from April 1993 onwards, many sticking points appeared that compromised the initial schedule. The sources of these problems were divergences between the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic, the overturn by a motion of no confidence or the resignation of successive Prime Ministers, or the suspension by the opposition of its participation in the interim institutions. The interim period was thus extended twice. The draft Constitution presented in January 1995 was not voted on by referendum until 31 March 1996. It was adopted with 63.5% of the votes. Finally, the presidential elections were held on 2 June and 3 July 1996. They were won by Idriss Déby who beat Wadal Abdoulkader Kamougué in the second round. However, the opposition contested the fairness of the election in both rounds.
These presidential elections were followed in early 1997 by general elections in which the Presidents Mouvement Patriotique du Salut (MPS) won a relative majority of 55 seats out of the 125 in the National Assembly. However, the party appealed to the courts against certain results and thus ended up with an absolute majority of 63 seats. The results of this vote were also contested by the opposition, a large part of which ended up allying itself with the authorities and joining a coalition government.
Despite the signature of several agreements between President Déby and certain armed groups such as Laokein Bardés Forces Armées pour la République Fédérale (FARF) or ex-President Goukouni Oueddèyes Front de Libération Nationale de Tchad Forces Armées Populaires (FROLINAT-FAP), instability has continued, particularly in the south of the country, in the region of Lake Chad and, more recently, in the North. In this region of Tibesti, on the border with Libya, former minister Youssouf Toigoimi is waging guerrilla warfare that today threatens the regime of President Déby and, as a consequence, the institutions set up by the constitutional referendum of 1996.
The holding of the general elections scheduled for March 2001 is currently a subject of debate. The Independent National Electoral Commission of Chad, whose composition is contested by the opposition, is asking that the vote be postponed due to the delays caused in the preparation process. The opposition fears that these elections are already rigged. The MPS-dominated Assembly adopted a law in August 2000 increasing the number of members of the Assembly from 125 to 155 and, in January 2001, the members whose term of office was supposed to come to an end in January 2000 were examining the possibility of extending their term of office yet again, pending the organisation of general elections in about a years time. As things stand, the presidential elections are still scheduled for May and June 2001.
The Constitution was adopted
by referendum on 31 March 1996. It established a semi-presidential regime. The President
of the Republic is elected in a two-round election on a majority basis, for a term of
office of five years that may be renewed just once. He has the right to dissolve the
National Assembly. The Prime Minister appointed by the President must present his
programme of government to the National Assembly (155 members since August 2000) to be
officially invested. He is answerable to the Parliament.
The Parliament of Chad is composed of the National Assembly and the Senate which exercise legislative power. The Members of the Assembly are elected for a term of four years by direct universal suffrage, while the Senators, representing the local authorities, are elected for six years by indirect suffrage by an electoral college composed of the local councillors. Should the office of the President of the Republic fall vacant, it is the President of the Senate who takes over for the interim period, despite the fact that he is elected indirectly. The Senate has yet to be set up and as the National Assembly is in the hands of the executive, the distinction between these two authorities is something of a formality.
In constitutional matters, Chad has a Constitutional Council established by Section VII of the Constitution of 31 March 1996. It was set up by Organic Law n°19 of 2 November 1998 and is composed of nine members who cannot be removed from office. They are elected or appointed for a single term of nine years in equal proportions between the President and the two chambers of Parliament. Affairs may be referred to this Council by those in charge of these three institutions, but also in exceptional cases by mere citizens. It has the power to deal with electoral disputes other than those arising in local elections, it judges whether laws comply with the terms of the Constitution and it settles conflicts between the institutions of the State. This brand new Constitutional Council is criticised for its lack of independence, especially on the occasion of elections.
There is also a High Court of Justice that has the power to judge high-ranking personalities of the State and a High Communication Council whose autonomy is yet to be established.
The Constitution established
the independence of the judicial authorities and created a single order of jurisdiction of
which the Supreme Court is the highest authority. The Supreme Court (which deals with
disputes in local elections), the Appeal Courts, the tribunals and the Justices of the
Peace exercise this legal power. There is a High Magistrates Council, but it is presided
over by the President of the Republic with the Minister for Justice as Vice-President.
As well as this, the law of Chad recognises customary and traditional rules as long as they are not in contradiction with the interests of public order, as long as they are applied with the communities in question or are recognised as consented. It should be noted that in affairs of matrimony or succession, the people of Chad apply traditional law almost exclusively.
Decentralisation and Devolution
Section XI of the Constitution is dedicated to decentralised local authorities, that is to say the rural communities, communes, departments and regions. These local authorities have an official legal status and are financially autonomous. Local councillors are elected for a term of office of six years by direct universal suffrage. The State is present through a system of appointment of heads for the various administrative units corresponding to the local authorities. The principles of decentralisation have yet to be implemented and it is only the appointed local chiefs who are already in place. The mayors and municipal councillors are also appointed. In August 2000, the Parliament adopted a system of administrative boundaries creating 118 sub-prefectures, within the framework of the decentralisation process.
Chad has had over seventy political parties since multi-partyism was authorised by decree in 1992 and confirmed by the Constitution of 1996. Some of these formations have their origins in guerrilla movements that later become parties following peace agreements or changes in the balance of power between the different forces. The main ones are as follows: President Idriss Débys Mouvement Patriotique du Salut (MPS), the Union Nationale pour le Développement et le Renouveau (UNDR) of Saleh Kebzabo, a member of the opposition who joined the government, the Union pour le Renouveau et la Démocratie (URD) of General Kamougué, a former warlord who has now become a moderate member of the opposition and President of the National Assembly, Abdoulaye Lamanas Union Nationale (UN), Lol Mahamat Chouas Rassembelemnt pour la Démocratie et le Progrès (RDP), VIVA RNDP of Kassiré Delwa Coumakoye, a former interim Prime Minister, the Union pour la Démocratie et la République (UDR) of Jean Alingué and Ngarjely Yorongars Front dAction pour le Renouveau (FAR).
The Constitution recognises
union freedom and the right to strike (Articles 28 and 29). There are many sector-based
unions, such as the Chad Teachers Union (SET) and several autonomous union
federations with varying mobilisation capacities: The Union des Syndicats du Tchad
(UST), the Confédération Libre des Travailleurs du Tchad (CLTT) and the Confédération
Syndicale du Tchad (CSTp). The Chad union movement is relatively weak on the whole.
If we compare the human
rights situation in Chad today with that prior to 1990, there has been undoubted
improvement. A National Human Rights Commission was set up in March 1995. There is also a
Chad Association for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights and a Chad Human Rights
League. However, the fundamental freedoms stipulated in the Constitution of April 1996 are
still not fully respected in this chronically unstable country in which civil war has gone
hand in hand with political violence and the circulation of personal weapons. Amnesty
International and the European Union have often denounced violations of human rights
recognised by the Constitution. These violations are committed through individual measures
such as the arrest and violence of which opposition leaders often complain (Saleh Kebzabo
before he joined the government, Ngarjely Yorongar, an opposition figure and director of a
). There are also summary executions and repercussions of the war between
the army and rebels on the civilian populations in the bed of Lake Chad and the south
In January 2000, legal proceedings supported by several human rights organisations were started against former President Hissein Habré for complicity in acts of torture.
Like most of the States which have initiated a transition to democracy, Chad experienced liberalisation of the press in 1990. Although many publications appeared, there were also many that then disappeared again. Several journalists were assassinated between 1990 and 1993 and papers did not sell well. As well as the State daily Info Tchad, there are several independent weekly or twice-monthly publications. The main ones are: NDjaména Hebdo, Le Progrès, Contact, Le Temps and LObservateur. The radio waves have been opened up, including to foreign stations. Such is the case of Radio France Internationale (RFI) which broadcasts on FM in NDjaména. Access to public media is not easy, however, for the opposition which is seeking to issue its own publications.