The president of Chad, Idriss Deby, has declared a three months state of emergency in two eastern provinces, Sila and Ouaddai. This is due to intercommunal clashes between cattle herders and settled farmers which have led to the death of about fifty people.

Eastern Chad is in a state of unrest as a result of the violence between nomadic camel herders – most of which are from the Zaghawa ethnic group – and sedentary farmers from the Ouaddian community.

Henceforth, the government will deploy military forces who are going to ensure the security of the population in the region. “We must disarm all the civilians who have weapons in their hands,” President Deby said.

The leader described the violence as a “national concern” saying that Chad is “witnessing a terrible phenomenon.” Moreover, those with guns are not hesitating to shoot the police. Deby declared, “We must wage a total war against those who carry weapons and are killing people.”

Referring to military personnel, the president said “If there is still fighting between Arabs and Ouaddaians… you shoot ten from each side to save the majority. You have authorisation.” The comment by the president has sparked condemnation from the Chad Convention for Human Rights.

The human rights body in a statement referred to the leader’s remarks as “scandalised by the call to massacre civilians.” In the statement, the body demanded “an immediate halt to these abuses and believes that the responsibility for the genocide that is being prepared will rest with President Deby.”

Deby had hinted in June that military courts may be reintroduced as a method to curb the unrest. This suggestion was denounced by the country’s opposition. In 1993, the Deby government abolished military justice which used to be applied to both armed forces and civilians. Also in 2016, the country scrapped the death penalty, except for “terrorism” cases.

Although drought and population increase have aggravated the conflict, the president also blamed the violence on the inflow of weapons from neighbouring conflict zones Libya, Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan.

Legislative elections in Chad have been scheduled to take place by the end of the year. The elections have been postponed several times since 2015 as Deby, who came into power in 1990, looks to maintain the position.

By Tobiloba Ishola.

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