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On Sunday, voters in Chad would go to the polls for presidential elections that however seem destined to hand President Idriss Deby a sixth term in office after his most prominent rivals were sidelined or knocked out from the race.
Deby has been at the helm of affairs in the West African Country for the past 3 decades.
The incumbent is going to be facing an election whose build-up is quite controversial, the initial field of challengers had earlier shrank from 16 to 6 after candidates were either barred, quit, or threatened out of the race, reports also say demonstrations have also been banned or dispersed in the country.
Speaking on Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said; ‘Chad’s security forces have ruthlessly cracked down on protesters and the political opposition… harming Chadians’ right to freely choose their elected representatives,’.
Deby has also openly courted support from the moderate opposition, a tactic that should help cement the first-round victory, analysts say.
Chad which lies just deep in the Sahel, the arid belt that straddles Africa, has struggled with poverty and instability since gaining independence from France in 1960.
Deby is a former rebel and career soldier who seized power in a coup in 1990.
From 16 candidates to six
Other than Deby, the six candidates include Albert Pahimi Padacke, 55, a former prime minister under Deby, and Felix Nialbe Romadoumngar, 64, a newcomer to politics who is officially “leader of the opposition” as his URD party is the second largest in the National Assembly with eight seats, after 160 for Deby’s PDS.
There is also Lydie Beassemda, 54, the first woman to run for president in Chad’s history.
But seven candidacies were rejected by the Supreme Court and three withdrew, including longtime opposition politician Saleh Kebzabo, who quit in protest over violence by the security forces.
On February 28, the police and soldiers had carried out a bloody commando-style raid on the home of a prominent would-be candidate, Yaya Dillo Djerou. His mother was among at least three people killed, and he is now on the run.
For several months, parties and civil society groups have called Saturday protest marches for peaceful alternation of power.
They have been banned, and the slightest gathering has been violently dispersed, while police and troops have surrounded party headquarters and the homes of their leaders.
Amnesty International and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are among those who have deplored the use of force.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK