Chad ex-president urges junta to include rebels in 'dialogue'

Chad's ex-president who ruled the turbulent Sahel country from 1980 to 1982, urged "reconciliation to end our quarrels," in a process that would embrace the Libyan-based rebels who claimed Deby's life.

Former Chad president Goukouni Oueddei, gesture during an interview with the Agence France Presse (AFP) in N'djamena on 2 May 2021. Picture: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

N'DJAMENA - Two weeks after veteran Chadian leader Idriss Deby was mortally wounded fighting a rebel force, one of his predecessors, ex-president Goukouni Weddeye, has called for inclusive dialogue to "save Chad".

Goukouni, who ruled the turbulent Sahel country from 1980 to 1982, urged "reconciliation to end our quarrels," in a process that would embrace the Libyan-based rebels who claimed Deby's life.

The rebels of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) mounted an offensive in April, threatening to advance on the capital N'Djamena, before the army fought them back.

A junta, formally known as the Transitional Military Council (CMT), took over after Deby's death and on Sunday named a transitional government.

The junta's head, Deby's 37-year-old son Mahamat, has vowed to eradicate the rebel force, ruling out negotiations.

But Goukouni, 77, said in an interview with AFP "the destruction of the country" was the major risk, and questioned the hard line.

"We have to bring them (the rebels) in too. We cannot consider them as criminal enemies and reject them. It is impossible," he said, suggesting a "round table" negotiating format.

Dressed in an immaculate white robe and sporting a neatly trimmed goatee, Goukouni has evolved into a statesman since his early rebel days.

A figure who rarely makes public comments, he is being courted by leading players in the country's crisis, one of his aides said.


Goukouni's nemesis was the ruthless Hissene Habre, sentenced by a special African court in Senegal in 2016 to life in jail for crimes against humanity.

It was the elder Deby who overthrew Habre in 1990, going on to repel several coup attempts and uprisings to rule for 30 years, winning a string of elections in the face of a fragmented opposition and boycotts. In the hours before he died, Deby was proclaimed victor of the latest presidential poll in a landslide.

Since Chad’s independence from France in 1960, the country has never seen a transfer of power through the ballot box. Goukouni, Habre and Deby each led a rebellion in their time.

Chad was thrown into turmoil by Deby's death, announced just the day after he was declared the winner of an 11 April election - giving him a sixth mandate after 30 years at the helm.

Now, almost a fortnight after the junta took over, uncertainty reigns in the former French colony of around 16 million people.

Goukouni warned that opportunists could swoop in during a power vacuum.

Supporting the army would be the only way to ensure democratic elections down the road, he argued. The junta has vowed a transition within 18 months.

Chad, with a well respected fighting force, is central to the West's fight against jihadists in the Sahel, where myriad Islamist extremist groups operate.

Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke paid a visit last week to Goukouni in the sumptuous residence the former rebel leader received from the senior Deby in 2009 upon his return from 22 years in exile.

Goukouni warned against vindictiveness.

The CMT "cannot talk like someone who wants a vendetta," he said. "We should not throw salt into the wound."

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