Hundreds of civilians were killed and injured during two days of fighting in February between the Chadian army and a coalition of armed opposition groups. More than 50,000 civilians fled the country.
Civilians were victims of enforced disappearance, and some were unlawfully arrested, arbitrarily detained and tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Journalists and human rights defenders were intimidated and harassed. Children were abducted and recruited as soldiers. The security situation remained highly volatile in the east.
Thousands of people were forcibly evicted from their homes without prior consultation and no alternative accommodation or compensation was provided.
On 14 February, President Déby declared a state of emergency, drastically restricting freedom of movement and expression. The decree was renewed on 29 February until 15 March. On 15 April, President Déby appointed a government led by Prime Minister Youssouf Saleh Abbas. On 23 April, four members of the opposition were appointed as ministers.
Chad and Sudan accused each other of supporting the other’s opponents. In May Chad closed its border with Sudan, and Sudan then severed diplomatic relations with Chad. In November, after Libyan mediation, the two governments resumed diplomatic relations.
In the east, sporadic fighting continued between government forces and Chadian armed groups, as did intercommunal violence mainly between the Tama and Zaghawa ethnic groups. Insecurity – characterized by rape and killings – affected the population. International humanitarian personnel working in the region were at risk of banditry, notably carjacking and armed robbery.
Eastern Chad hosted more than 290,000 refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region and more than 180,000 internally displaced people. Camps for refugees and the internally displaced were used by Chadian and Sudanese armed groups to recruit combatants. There were reports that weapons were being sold within refugee camps and internally displaced people’s sites in the east.
"...the Chadian army and armed groups continued to recruit and use child soldiers."
The UN Security Council extended until 15 March 2009 the mandate of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). By the end of 2008, MINURCAT had representatives in N’Djamena, eastern Chad, and Bangui in the Central African Republic. Deployment of a Chadian contingent trained by MINURCAT started in September. The mandate of the European Union military operation known as EUFOR in eastern Chad and northern Central African Republic was extended to March 2009.
On 31 March, President Déby pardoned six members of the French charity L’Arche de Zoé (Zoe’s Ark), who had been convicted in 2007 of abducting 103 children. A court in N’Djamena had sentenced them to eight years’ imprisonment with hard labour. They were transferred to France, where a court ruled that a sentence of hard labour could not be enforced under French law and the sentence was replaced with eight years’ imprisonment. In October, Chad demanded that France pay compensation to the children’s families, but none had been paid by France by the end of 2008.
Armed conflict – attack on N’Djamena
On 31 January, armed opposition groups launched a major offensive on N’Djamena. For two days, heavy fighting racked the city. At least 700 civilians were killed and hundreds injured. More than 50,000 people fled to neighbouring Cameroon. The attack was carried out by a coalition of three armed groups: the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (Union des forces pour la Démocratie et le Développement, UFDD), the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development-Fundamental (Union des forces pour la Démocratie et le Développement-Fondamentale, UFDD-Fondamentale), and the Rally of Forces for Change (Rassemblement des Forces pour le Changement, RFC).
The report of a government-appointed National Commission of Inquiry to investigate the violence was made public in September. It concluded that most human rights abuses were committed after armed groups had left the city and recommended the establishment of a follow-up committee to implement its recommendations. President Déby set up a follow-up committee composed only of government ministers in September. Civil society organizations called for a more independent committee.
The authorities refused to disclose the whereabouts of men who disappeared after they were arrested by government forces.
- The fate and whereabouts of more than 14 army officers and civilians arrested in April 2006 on suspicion of involvement in a 2006 attack on N’Djamena remained unknown.
- Six members of the Tama ethnic group arrested in Guéréda in November 2007 remained disappeared. Harun Mahamat, the Sultan of Dar Tama Department, who had been arrested with the six men, was released on 3 May after being transferred to a N’Djamena military facility.
- The National Commission of Inquiry failed to establish the whereabouts of opposition leader Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh who was arrested on 3 February by government forces. It suggested that he was probably dead.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions
Security personnel and soldiers arrested and detained civilians, particularly after the attack on N’Djamena.
- Three opposition leaders – former President Lol Mahamat Choua, Ngarlegy Yorongar and Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh – were arrested by security forces on 3 February. Lol Mahamat was later released and Ngarlegy Yorongar resurfaced in Cameroon. Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh disappeared (see above).
Excessive use of force
The security forces used excessive and unnecessary lethal force against civilians.
- At least 68 followers of Sheikh Ahmet Ismael Bichara and four gendarmes were killed on 29 June in Kouno, when gendarmes opened fire indiscriminately as they attempted to arrest the sheikh who had reportedly threatened to launch a jihad. He was later arrested with five of his assistants and transferred to a detention centre in N’Djamena.
Government forces extrajudicially executed civilians in the wake of the attack on N’Djamena. A number of bodies, including that of Adam Bachir Abeldielil, were recovered along the banks of the Chari River. Similar killings were reported in the east. The government took no action to bring those suspected of the killings to justice.
- Doungous Ngar was arrested by security forces on 5 February and the next day his body was found in a hospital mortuary in N’Djamena. He was arrested at his workplace by soldiers who accused him of stealing a motorbike, tied up his hands and feet and put him in a military vehicle.
- Adam Hassan and Bineye Mahamat, two shopkeepers in Farcha, a suburb of N’Djamena, were arrested on 23 February by soldiers who accused them of supporting the armed opposition. They were beaten and thrown in the soldiers’ vehicle. Their bodies were found on the banks of the Chari River.
Violence against women and girls
Girls and young women continued to be victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence. Displaced girls were raped when they ventured out of their camps. A number of rapes by Chadian soldiers were reported in the aftermath of the attack on N’Djamena, often in the context of house searches for arms and looted goods.
The practice of female genital mutilation continued and forced marriages were imposed, including in camps for refugees and the internally displaced.
- On 21 May, a 55-year-old mother of five was raped by three government soldiers guarding a crossing point across a trench dug around N’Djamena to protect the city from armed attack. She later fled to Cameroon to escape social stigma.
The government ordered the demolition of thousands of homes in N’Djamena, leaving tens of thousands homeless, following a 22 February presidential decree. The N’Djamena municipal council claimed that the destroyed houses had been built without authorization on government land. The government failed to ensure prior consultation with the owners or to offer them alternative housing or compensation.
Refugees and internally displaced people
By the end of 2008, Chad was hosting nearly 250,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps. More than 13,000 refugees entered Chad during the year, fleeing fighting in Sudan. More than 180,000 Chadians were internally displaced. Around 50,000 refugees from the Central African Republic continued to live in southern Chad.
In August, a Chadian judge convicted and sentenced to death exiled former President Hissène Habré and 11 armed opposition leaders, including Timane Erdimi, leader of the Rally of Forces for Change, and Mahamat Nouri, leader of the National Alliance. The court convicted them in their absence for crimes against Chad’s “constitutional order, territorial integrity and security.”
Both the Chadian army and armed groups continued to recruit and use child soldiers. According to the UN, there were between 7,000 and 10,000 children serving in armed groups and the Chadian army.
In the east, Sudanese armed groups – the Toro Boro and the Justice and Equality Movement – recruited children from refugee camps. The Chadian United Front for Democratic Change (Front uni pour le changement démocratique) also recruited children from refugee and internally displaced camps.
Freedom of expression – journalists
Journalists continued to be subjected to intimidation, harassment and arrest. Journalists reporting on the conflict in the east or on relations with Sudan were accused of being “enemies of the state”.
No criticism of the authorities was tolerated, and a number of journalists were forced to flee the country. During the state of emergency, a presidential decree restricted press freedom and increased penalties that could be imposed on journalists. The decree remained in force after the end of the state of emergency in March.
- On 16 January, police arrested Maji-maji Oudjitan, programme coordinator of FM Liberté, and shut the radio station down. It reopened on 27 May on the orders of the new Prime Minister. The station’s director, Djekourninga Kaoutar Lazare, was detained from 16 to 22 January.
- On 16 February, Sonia Roley, correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI) and the only international journalist who remained in the country, had her accreditation withdrawn, forcing her to leave Chad.
Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders faced threats, attacks and arrests.
- On 28 July, the Minister of Internal Affairs ordered the closure of the Chadian Association of Victims of Political Repression and Crime. On 31 July, the organization’s president, Clément Abaïfouta, was arrested, accused of inciting ethnic hatred, forgery and use of forged documents. He was released on 1 August but continued to suffer harassment.
- Deouzoumbé Daniel Passalet, President of Human Rights Without Borders, was arrested on 9 January after commenting on the enforced disappearance of a government official. In February, he went into hiding.
Abuses by armed groups
In eastern Chad, various Chadian and Sudanese armed groups subjected civilians to killings, rapes, child recruitment and kidnappings for ransom. They also attacked humanitarian workers.
Unlawful killings of civilians in the east by armed groups continued throughout 2008. People were also killed in intercommunal clashes, especially between members of the Tama and Zaghawa ethnic groups. Many of the killings occurred in April, particularly in Guéréda.
Violence broke out in July between the Moro and Dadjo ethnic groups in Kerfi, eastern Chad. A senior Moro official was killed in the clashes and thousands of Dadjo were forced to flee the area.
- In April, Ramadan Djom, a driver for Save The Children UK, was killed by armed men near the Sudanese border. On 1 May, Pascal Marlinge, the organization’s country director, was shot dead by gunmen between Farchana and Hajir Hadid, close to the Sudanese border.
Children were abducted by armed bandits for ransom, and were killed if their parents failed to pay.
Amnesty International visitsAmnesty International delegates visited Chad in May.
Amnesty International reportsDouble misfortune: The deepening human rights crisis in Chad (18 December 2008)
Chad: Security forces shot 68 people in an attempt to arrest a Muslim spiritual leader (10 July 2008)