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25 Dec, 2023 12:50

Chad approves new constitution to return to civilian rule

The Central African nation’s military initially promised to hold national elections within 18 months of taking control in 2021
Chad approves new constitution to return to civilian rule

Chadians have voted in favor of a new constitution, which would pave the way for elections and a return to civilian rule in the landlocked Central African country, which has been ruled by the military since 2021.

The country's electoral commission announced the results of a referendum held on Sunday, saying 86% of people voted "yes" to a new constitution that would maintain a "unitary and decentralized state," while the remaining 14% voted "no."

Chad has had a unitary state since its independence from France in 1960, but opponents have advocated for federalization, claiming that it would help promote development in the country, where nearly 40% of its estimated 18 million people rely on humanitarian aid.

Several opposition groups reportedly demanded a boycott of the vote, questioning the independence of the election commission that organized it.

Brice Nguedmbaye Mbaimon, who leads a coalition of "no" voters, expressed disappointment with the referendum’s outcome on Sunday, claiming the figures announced are “imaginary and fanciful,” according to the local media outlet Tchadinfos. Mbaimon had previously stated that the former French colony had been a unitary state for over 50 years with no visible progress.

The electoral body reported a turnout of 63.75% of the 8 million eligible voters in the December 17 referendum, with the results expected to be validated by the country's Supreme Court within four days of publication.

The military authorities have described the ballot as a crucial step toward elections next year.

Chad's interim president, Mahamat Idriss Deby, also known as Mahamat Kaka, took control of the Sahel nation after his father, Idriss Deby, was killed on the battlefield by rebels in 2021, and initially promised to hold elections within 18 months. However, the government passed a resolution last year that extended the deadline by two years to October 2024, sparking protests that lead to the killing of more than 100 civilians.

During a visit to France in October, Mahamat Kaka told French President Emmanuel Macron that his government was still committed to meeting all transitional obligations.

The Central African nation has become the last remaining ally of Paris in the Sahel region after the coup leaders in the West African countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and recently Niger severed military ties with the former colonial power after recent coups, accusing it of interference.

While Paris has opposed the military rulers in the three West African countries, it appears to support Chad's. Chadian authorities have hailed France as a "long-standing" and "reliable" partner with whom they have a mutually beneficial bilateral agreement, despite a growing number of protests against the French presence in the country.