Chad On Brink Of Implosion If Status Quo Prevails- Dr Succès Masra

By Ajong Mbapndah L

The survival of Chad as a country depends on how the leadership issues are addressed, says Dr Succès Masra.

The botched transition with the filial succession agenda been cemented may lead to the breakup of Chad as a country, says Dr Succès Masra leader of the Transformation opposition party.

Arguably the leading voice of the opposition in the Central African country today, Dr Succès Masra is furious that not only has the current Chadian leader General Mahamat Kaka Deby reneged on the interim transition plan that he initially proposed,  but seems to be enjoying strong backing from the French government, and most disturbingly, the African Union.

“When the African Union, did not condemn the coup in Chad as dictated by the AU charter, I made a statement saying that AU buried itself in Chad. By making an exception to the rule, and arguing that Chad’s context is unique, the continental organization opened doors to a series of coup d’états in Africa. Within months of the coup in Chad, there were coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea,” says Dr Succès Masra.

A former Senior Cadre at the AfDB, Masra who was forced to flee from Chad after protests against the extension of military rule turned bloody, says the survival of Chad as a country depends on how the leadership issues are addressed. Currently ranked within the bottom echelons of most development indexes, Dr Succès Masra believes that Chadians deserve better, and the country has the potential to change course. This will only happen if the Deby dynasty currently incarnated by General Mahamat Kaka Deby steps aside for free and fair elections to take place, says Dr Succès Masra as he vows to continue leading the resistance.

How can you sum up the socio, economic and political situation in Chad today?

Dr Succès Masra: Chad has become a country led by less than 2% of the population who impose to the rest of the vast majority of the population, a dynastic, armed and corrupt clan-based system. In fact, after gaining its independence from France in 1960, Chad has been plagued by a series of coup d’états, chronic sectarian violence, and poor leadership. My people never had the opportunity to choose their leaders through a democratic system. Despite many natural resources including gold, arable lands, arabic gum and the discovery of oil and its exploitation in 2003, the oil revenue has yet to benefit the population.

 The 33-year + of the Deby regime is mainly characterized by poor governance, massive human rights violations, large-scale corruption, money embezzlement by those in power and their entourage, and a large budget for weapon funding to support this poor leadership. As a result, Chad is ranked at the bottom of the Human Development Index (190/191), right before South Sudan, a country that is only 11 years old; at the bottom of Human Capital Index and Competitiveness’ Index. Almost 16 million out of the 17 million don’t have access to electricity and clean water.

 Under the three-decade reign of the Deby family, Chad’s oil wealth was not adequately invested in key development projects such as education, and health and economic infrastructure to transform the country. Regarding education which is the most important sector to transform a country, Chad has the lowest literacy rate worldwide in 2021 (27%), and the country’s life expectancy is 53 years.

 For the 17 million people of Chad, the sudden death of former President Déby, after 30 years of iron-fisted rule, was seen as an opportunity to establish the rule of law, good governance, and to experience their first-ever peaceful transfer of power.  In their vast majority, the young people who represent 70% of the population of Chad, have only known one president in their lifetime. As a result, they are increasingly demanding political and economic change and eager to not only engage in the democratic process but also to experience their first-ever peaceful transfer of power. Chadians’ hope for a “new beginning” or a “new Chad” got crushed when General Mahamat Kaka Deby, the late president’s son stepped in and confiscated power citing insecurity that the void left by his father’s sudden death can only be contained by a military. After promising to conduct an 18-month transition leading to a transfer of power to a civilian, he backpedaled. The dialogue he organised with people from the same political aisle, instead added two more years to the transition, and the resolutions from the Dialogue, which was not inclusive nor sovereign, also gave him the right to run for the presidency at the end of the transition. The chart he designed following the suspension of the Constitution gives him the control of the three pillars of power as he leads the executive power, appoints and controls the Government, the Parliament and the judiciary system. 

 The vast majority of Chadians who are struggling for true democracy are against that dynastic plan, so under the direction of the political opposition and the civil society organizations, on October 20th supposed to be the end of the 18 months of transition, we organized a peaceful march to demand that General Mahamat Kaka Deby respects the commitments he made not only to the People but also to the African Union, the United Nations and the International community. Deby junior’s militia response to the peaceful protesters was devastating. On that “Bloody Thursday” and the days following the protest, they killed over 300 protesters and deported more than 2000 to Koro-Toro, the high-security prison in the desert also known as the Chadian Guantanamo; hundreds of people were missing, and thousands obliged to flee the country or to live in hiding. The main political parties and civil society organizations including the Transformers I am leading were banned and their leaders targeted either to be arrested or killed. For instance, on that bloody Thursday, many peaceful protestors (at least four) were killed in front of the main gate of the US Embassy in Chad and among the 27 arrested in our headquarters, the information we have indicates that 23 were killed and their bodies thrown in the Chari river.

 We referred those cases at the international criminal court, in addition to the fact that the junta is mainly targeting the Sara community and Christians coming from the southern part of Chad (over 90% of those arrested or killed), to create objective conditions for civil war. Chad is therefore at a crossroad in a struggle between a dynastic system and pro-democracy forces. Our struggle is to stop this dynastic system and build instead, a democratic, just, equitable and inclusive rainbow nation. Partners of Chad who believe in democracy should help our People in this struggle and resistance for dignity and democracy.

You were recently in the USA on the sidelines of the USA-African leaders’ summit, what was the purpose of your presence, and how did this help the political fight you have in Chad?

Dr Succès Masra: At the dawn of “Bloody Thursday,” the Junta hunted me down for organizing that peaceful protest along with several political opposition leaders and civil society organizations. I was in hiding for weeks before escaping to neighboring Cameroon and finally to Washington, DC. My presence at the US-Africa leaders’ Summit side events had one and only one purpose, carrying the voice of my people who did not want to adhere to the dynastic plan and seek support for what is a resistance for democracy, self-determination, and the choice of our leaders. The message is that the United Nations, considering the failure and weakness of the African Union, takes up the Chadian issue to organize direct discussions with the main actors for a post-crisis agreement to allow us to return to a fair and democratic process, based on the commitments that have been made and not respected by the junta. If this is not the case, I am also issuing this alert, considering the actual situation of the country today, that we are moving towards two Chads. 

If democracy is not there and they want to impose the dynasty on us, then the United Nations should help organize a peaceful split between the two Chad: the first Chad will be the dynastic one in which those with the weapons can lead like the one led by the junta.  The second Chad will be Chad in which there is democracy and where pro-democracy Chadians will choose their leaders in the name of the peoples’ right to self-determination. Why am I taking this message to the United Nations?  Because the United Nations is the guarantor of what I call the right to self-determination of people. Therefore, if they do not take responsibility, Pro-democracy Chadians will be obliged to organize themselves to have a protective shield of their dignity because, in fact, the only reason Deby Jr succeeded Deby Sr. and sustains his father’s system is because they have weapons, and it will be a terrible signal to send to the whole world, that in Chad it is enough to have weapons to lead, it is not enough to be popular and to be chosen by the people to lead.  This is what is at stake, and we are really at the tipping point, at a crossroads, and the choice is there, and we carry this message with guts because the vast majority of our people want to build a rainbow and democratic Chad on the backbone of justice and equality. 

The popularity , dynamism and vision of Dr Succès Masra makes him the face of the resistance in Chad today.

In an op-ed you questioned the rationale of inviting the Chadian leader Gen Mahamat Deby Itno to the summit, in the interest of the Chadian people, don’t you think it was fair to have a seat at the table for such a high-profile summit with big stakes?

Dr Succès Masra: The USA avoided calling the situation in Chad a coup d’état and did not sanction the junta. Inspired by what happened in Chad, within a year, there were coups in Mali, followed by Guinea, then Burkina Faso. Surprisingly, unlike Chad, the International Community not only condemned all those juntas but even sanctioned them, including Sudan. The US tried to justify extending the invitation to the junta leader Mahamat Kaka Deby and not the others to the US-Africa Summit for the simple fact that the African Union had not sanctioned Chad while the other countries were sanctioned.

How can the United States help Africa “Deliver Democratic and Security Dividends” if it continues to provide military, financial assistance, and diplomatic prestige to the illegitimate and military junta in Chad and several most autocratic and rights-abusing regimes in Africa? Has the United States been influenced by the ambiguous position of France on this specific case of Chad?

Chad, where the Deby family dynasty has ruled for nearly 35 years, millions of American taxpayer dollars are transferred annually through foreign and military aid.  These weapons are used to kill Chadian citizens. Africa has changed. The African youth, which represents 70% of the African population is increasingly and legitimately requiring servant and accountable leadership. The United States, which, in recent years, has bet on young leaders through various programs, including the Washington Mandela Fellowship, better has its name associated with democrats for a win-win and long-term sustainable partnership. Africa is watching how the international community is reacting to Chad.

What is the government of Gen Mahamat Deby Into doing to shed light on the protesters killed in October, how can the affected families and Chadians get justice from such a calamity?

Dr Succès Masra: Since the fateful “Bloody Thursday,” Mahamat Deby Itno has not done much to shed light on the killed protesters. Even though he accepted and invited an international investigation to be opened, things are not looking promising as the government is still trying to put the blame on the opposition for the October 20th carnage by maintaining that they were trying to contain, in fact, an insurrection that the opposition plotted. A commission composed of representatives of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the United Nations, and the African Union were expected in N’djamena, but only three representatives from the ECCAS have shown up so far and tried to tamper with the investigations. As such, Chadians are questioning the commission’s credibility as their work already started with polemics surrounding the said investigations. For example, the junta presented on national TV three former members of my party, The Transformers, as active members who met with the commission team, and their depositions were taken on the events of October 20th on behalf of my party even though they are no longer members of the Transformers, and they have accepted job offers and bribes with the junta. For the affected families and Chadian people to get justice for such calamity, accurate investigations must be conducted to sort out responsibilities and bring to justice the perpetrators of the October 20th carnage. Only an independent and credible commission led by the UN and comprised of other credible impartial organizations’ representatives including those from the International criminal court can do so. On behalf of my party, we prepared a complaint that was filed at the International Criminal Court on November 9, 2022, by our legal counsel team.

There is no turning back in the fight for Chad to change course , says Dr Succès Masra

Congressional leaders in the USA like Senator Bob Menendez are mounting pressure on Chad and its current leader to probe the October killings, are you satisfied with such developments?

Dr Succès Masra: During my visit to the United States in 2019, I had the opportunity to meet with some members of American Congress from the House and Senate, including the office of Senator Robert Menendez. The purpose of these meetings was to raise awareness on our country and rally congressmen and congresswomen to the cause of Democracy in Chad. Upon my return to Chad, of course, I kept them informed of the situation in Chad and of the human rights abuses. When former President Idriss Deby Itno Sr. passed away on April 21, 2021, and his son Mahamat Kaka Deby proclaimed himself President of the Military Transition Council, Senator Robert Menendez was, among those who condemned this takeover by force and introduced a resolution in Congress demanding that the US stops military aid to Chad, and demanded targeted sanctions for all 15 members of the Military Transition Council if they do not keep their commitment to hand over power to civilians after the 18 months of transition. After the so-called National and Inclusive Dialogue, which ended the transition on October 20, 2022, with Deby’s son extending the transition for another 24 months, and the peaceful protest that turned into carnage with Deby Jr. ordering the killing of hundreds of protesters, and thousands wounded, Senator Bob Menendez, of course, reminded Mahamat Kaka Deby through a letter written on December 12 that to appease tensions, he must relinquish power to a civilian and announce publicly that he would not run in the upcoming elections. So, yes, I’m hoping that the resolutions Senator Menendez introduced in Congress will receive full support from other Senators and the Biden administration.

 Looking at the whole transition issue in Chad, why do you think the constitutional succession order was not respected when President Idris Deby died?

Dr Succès Masra: When President Idriss Deby died on April 20th, 2021, the French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Chad to attend the funeral and to support his successor, the junta leader Mahamat Kaka. In his speech, President Macron said, and I quote: “France will never allow the stability and integrity of Chad to be called into question.” Upon his return from Chad, we organized a peaceful protest, on April 27th, to demand the return of democracy. The Junta killed 17 of our supporters. On that day, President Macron stated in a joint press conference with the former president of the African Union Felix Tshisekedi that he was for a peaceful and democratic transition, that he was not for a succession plan, and that, I quote France would never support those who form such a project. Yet, despite this ongoing dynastic plan after the 18-month transition has expired, President Macron still hasn’t condemned the junta leader. This ambiguous position of France who played a strategic diplomatic role in support of the junta, sends a bad signal for democracy. It’s never late to change and make a clear choice between Democracy and Dynasty. If this is not the case, France will lose its credibility in Chad and Africa forever.

You had a very successful career going for you notably at the AfDB, what prompted you to jump into politics?

Dr Succès Masra: I started working at the African Development Bank (AfDB) at the age of 26. As the Senior Economist, I was coordinating the Desert to Power program at the African Development Bank in the Presidential Task Force.  In this institution working for the whole continent, I spent over 10 years before resigning to launch the grassroot movement, “The Transformers,” turned into political party in 2019 with the main objective to build a more just, inclusive, democratic, and equitable Chad through servant and accountable leadership. What influenced me to get into politics is injustice and inequality, that type of Apartheid where a small group of Chadians (about 2%) has all the advantages and all the rights, while the remaining 98 percent live in absolute precarity in a country with abundant natural resources. I believe that one of the critical issues for my generation is access to education, and what really made me decide to run for President of Chad was when Idriss Deby, the late President of Chad, confiscated power, gained complete control of all key government positions and made himself president for life. Deby acted like God on earth in a very poor country, and I could not just sit idle and let this happen, so I decided to get into politics to bring changes so we could transform Chad into a land of justice, equality, opportunity, and protection for each Chadian.

By giving the Chadian military junta a pass, the African Union opened the floodgates for other coups to flourish the continent, says Dr Succès Masra

Can you shed some more light on the Transformers political movement that you lead and its vision for Chad?

Dr Succès Masra: The Transformers was launched in April 2018 following the late President Idriss Deby Itno’s changes to the Constitution to remain President of Chad for life, and we have quickly become the leading political opposition force in the country with adhesion from the larger majority of Chadians. The party’s vision is to transform the republic by establishing servant leadership at all levels to create the conditions of national unity and a land of justice, equality, and opportunity for all. This servant leadership must be established in a transparent republic, a state that gives a fair chance to all its children regardless of ethnicity, region, and beliefs.

 The transformed republic I’m referring to should be our common house, our umbrella during storms, and our cave in the desert. Transforming the republic also means creating an educational system that builds up today’s citizens and educates for tomorrow because the main asset for the country’s transformation is the quality of its human resources. Therefore, education will become our number one priority. The transformed republic means also building together a republic in which the citizens are not only equal before the Laws but equal in Duties and Rights. The transformed Chad is an inclusive nation in which Chadians will be equal in rights and enjoy the same opportunities.

 The transformed society we are fighting for will empower Chadian people to exercise particularly the freedom to choose their leaders in democratic local and national elections.  As you know, Chad had held six presidential elections in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016, and 2021 but no election has ever produced a peaceful transfer of power. Under former President Deby Sr., parliamentary elections in Chad were purposely delayed for more than a decade. We aim at reinforcing on one hand the capacity of the army of Chad to make it more efficient and stronger so as to be able to protect and defend Chadians and their territory, but also to intervene within Africa alongside local and other international forces to defend democracy, human rights, and contribute to peace and security when needed in the fight against terrorism; and on the other hand, to build a strong economy and create conditions for entrepreneurship and wealth, while bringing more individual and social wellbeing for the citizens.

Our vision is to transform Chad from a one-legged country into a two-legged country where security and development are delivered through a democratic and inclusive leadership. Our method as explained in our program available on our app (https://app.transformateurstchad.africa), is to establish accountability at all levels of the leadership through contracts of performance with KPI’s. We intend to bring a private sector mindset in the public sector, to deliver for the people.

In the face of the kind of backing that Gen Mahamat Deby gets from France, the former colonial power, how challenging is it for progressive voices like yours and others to bring about needed reforms in Chad?

Dr Succès Masra: The events that occurred on October 20, 2022, which are now referred to as “Bloody Thursday,” shows General Mahamat Deby’s level of confidence because of the silence from France, the African Union and the International Community as a whole. Deby Jr. felt empowered because he has been granted a permit to kill without facing any consequences. Since he seized power, Deby’s son has ordered his militia to kill hundreds of peaceful protesters; they have hunted down and killed people with discordant voices. Journalists have been killed, and some people close to the regime have received the green light to kill others without any fear of being brought to justice. This has been very challenging for political parties like mine, which strive for democratic changes through peaceful actions.  

Peaceful demonstrations, even those that are authorized, are systematically and violently repressed. Our struggle is for justice and equality, and it is a peaceful one based on democratic values. I don’t have weapons, France knows that, and the International Community knows that too. So, I hope that they will hear the voice of the Chadian people who, since the independence, have never got a chance to participate in fair and transparent elections, and choose freely their president. General Deby Jr lost his honor when he didn’t respect his commitments made for an 18-month transition. He lost his soul when he ordered the killing of hundreds of peaceful protestors. It’s time to stop this dynastic transmission of power. I can hear a great American remind us that there comes a time where silence is betrayal, and another great African adding that in a situation of injustice, if you are neutral, you have chosen the camp of the oppressor.

For Dr Succès Masra, Chadians deserve way more than what decades of the Deby dynasty have served them.

One of the reasons advanced by State Department Officials in justifying the presence of Mahamat Deby in Washington, DC, is that Chad is not under AU sanctions, what do you make of the way the Moussa Faki led AU has approached or handled the crisis in Chad?

Dr Succès Masra: The United States is strong enough to act on its own. I understand that they can work in synergy with partners but not when human rights and real democracy is at stake. When the African Union, did not condemn the coup in Chad as dictated by the AU charter, I made a statement saying that AU buried itself in Chad. By making an exception to the rule, and arguing that Chad’s context is unique, the continental organization opened doors to a series of coup d’états in Africa. Within months of the coup in Chad, there were coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. I wish I wasn’t right, but history has proven us right. Therefore, to save face, the AU must come back to Chad and dig itself out by applying the rule in the AU charter, which recommends sanctioning the military junta.  What is clear to all the African People, today, the African Union lost its credibility in Chad. This is why we are bringing the Chadian situation to the United Nations level. 

As we start a new year, what are your hopes and what are your fears for Chad?

Dr Succès Masra: You know, we are at a crossroads. In Chad, we have a man, General Mahamat Deby and his clan who represent less than 2% of the population, who have a permit to kill because of the initial support from France which influenced the US and international allies to support him for the 18 months. He lied to our people and the international community and therefore, lost his honour and soul. I do have hope that the international community will stop their support to the junta and its leader Mahamat Kaka Deby, support the pro-democracy forces and therefore stop the dynastic power in Chad. My people are courageously doing their homework and what we need is support for the resistance, a shield to protect the dignity and security of the people. Otherwise, my legitimate fear is that Chad will be dislocated with more than one Chad to lead because Chadians reject the dynastic plan that is being put in place and are fed up with injustice and all other atrocities they face in their country since independence. If the dynastic armed system led by General Deby Jr is not stopped now, the ongoing “Sudanisation of Chad” will result in two countries. My hope is that we should never let the darkness of a dynastic armed system, overcome the light of democracy based on the backbone of justice and self-determination of my people in the choice of our leaders.

* Culled From January Issue of PAV Magazine.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button