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Chad junta chief flying to Qatar for peace deal with rebels

The head of Chad’s ruling junta Friday flew off to Qatar to seal a possible peace deal with rebels, a key step in plans to restore civilian rule, the presidency’s website said.

General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno’s plane took off from N’Djamena airport at around 1230 GMT, an AFP journalist said.

Earlier, diplomats and negotiators in Doha said Deby and opposition groups would sign an accord on Monday, opening the way for the rebels to attend a “national inclusive dialogue” on Chad’s future.

Deby has been in power since April 2021, when his father, veteran president Idriss Deby Itno, was killed in an operation against insurgents in northern Chad.

He has promised to stage elections within an 18-month timeframe.

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The ballot would follow a “dialogue” gathering representatives across Chadian society, including its political opposition and constellation of rebel groups.

chad mapThe forum was initially scheduled to start on February 15 but was postponed to May 10 and then again to August 20.

It has been persistently delayed by discord among the dozens of rebel groups locked in talks with the government.

Qatar has been playing the role of mediator in the parlay, which began in March.

On the table is a government plan for a ceasefire and guarantees of security for rebel leaders who attend the forum.

On Friday, a senior diplomatic source in Doha said “the signature will be on Monday”.

The source spoke on condition of anonymity as no official announcement had been made by the Qatari government.

A deeply poor country in the heart of the Sahel, Chad has had little stability since gaining independence from France in 1960.

Armed rebels are a major factor in the volatility, traditionally posing a threat to the government from havens in the north of the country

The main armed opposition Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) has not yet announced whether it will sign the accord.

FACT fighters were among rebels battling the senior Deby when he was killed last year after an iron-fisted reign lasting 30 years.

Captured rebels from the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) in N'Djamena last year (Picture via AFP)
Captured rebels from the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) in N’Djamena last year (Picture via AFP)

According to a decree signed Thursday by Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke, more than 1,300 representatives of rebel groups, civil society, trade unions and government officials will attend the talks in the Chadian capital.

The 18-month timeframe set by Deby runs out in October, which leaves little time to prepare for elections in the vast arid country.

The junta has given itself the option of extending the deadline but faces pressure from France, the European Union and African Union not to do so.