The armed group Boko Haram continued to commit abuses around Lake Chad. Chadian authorities repeatedly banned peaceful assemblies and arrested and prosecuted human rights defenders, activists and journalists, some of whom became prisoners of conscience. The right to freedom of association was violated with unlawful restrictions on the right to organize freely, including the criminalization of certain citizens’ associations. More than 408,000 refugees continued to live in dire conditions in camps including in Baga Sola.
Revisions to the Criminal Code were promulgated by President Déby, repealing the death penalty except for “terrorism”, and increasing the minimum age for marriage to 18 years.
New powers, including the power to arrest, were provided to the National Security Agency (ANS).
A severe economic crisis, following a sharp drop in the price of petrol in recent years, led to austerity measures, public discontent and strikes in sectors including health, education and justice.
Abuses by armed groups
The armed group Boko Haram continued to kill, abduct and injure civilians, and to destroy property.
On 5 May, Boko Haram members killed at least four civilians and burned 50 houses in Kaiga Kindjiria. On the night of 25 May, a Boko Haram attack on Kirnatchoulma village, in the west of Kaiga Kinjiria, resulted in at least three people being killed and three wounded. On 26 and 27 May, Boko Haram carried out several attacks on the villages of Konguia, Wangui and Kagrerom, in the area of Tchoukoutalia.
On 30 May a woman was abducted by Boko Haram about 4km from Kaiga Kindjiria. Similar attacks were reported in May and June in other areas including Bodou-Doloum in the Baga Sola sub-prefecture, which resulted in the killing of three people and the abduction of three others.
Freedom of assembly
During the year, the authorities banned at least six peaceful assemblies, and those organizing and participating in protests were arrested.
On 6 and 15 April respectively, Nadjo Kaina and Bertrand Solloh, leaders of the citizen movement IYINA (“We are tired”), were arrested by ANS agents for calling on citizens to wear red on the anniversary of the 2016 presidential election as a protest against corruption and impunity. They were detained by the ANS without access to their families or lawyers, before being handed over to the judicial police. They were charged with attempted conspiracy and organizing an unauthorized gathering and given a six-month suspended sentence. The two men reported being tortured while in detention, including by being suffocated with plastic bags containing chili.
On 12 April, Dingamnayal Nely Versinis, president of the organization Collectif Tchadien Contre la Vie Chère, was arrested by ANS agents at the city hall in the capital, N’Djamena. He had called on traders at the N’Djamena Millet Market to strike in protest at an increase in market fees. He was detained without access to his family or lawyer and charged with fraud and using a false identity, before being released on 27 April by the Public Prosecutor on the grounds that he had committed no offence.
Freedom of association
Certain social movements and civil society platforms were banned and the right to strike was restricted in contravention of international law.
The citizens’ movement IYINA remained banned and, on 6 January, the Minister of Territorial Administration banned the activities of the National Movement of Citizen Awakening (MECI), a movement bringing together civil society organizations, trade unions and political parties, describing it as “unnatural” and “without any legal basis”. On 27 May the police interrupted and banned MECI’s General Assembly.
The rights of trade unions were violated in response to the strike action they initiated from September 2016 to January 2017. They remained subject to a decree introduced in 2016 limiting the right to strike, and their requests to protest were rejected.
In January the authorities interfered in the internal affairs of the trade union representing researchers and university teachers, SYNECS, to force the removal of its president and end its strike. The same month, visas were denied to representatives of the General Confederation of Labour, an international partner of Chadian trade unions.
Freedom of expression
Journalists critical of the government received threats and were subject to surveillance, while defamation and contempt laws continued to be used in an attempt to silence them.
Between 22 and 24 February, Eric Kokinagué, the Director of Publication of the newspaper Tribune Info, received more than a dozen anonymous, threatening calls from different numbers after he published an article heavily critical of President Déby. On 25 February, the columnist who wrote the article, Daniel Ngadjadoum, was abducted by armed men, detained for up to 24 hours in what he believes was an ANS facility, and forced to write a letter of apology to the President.
In June, Déli Sainzoumi Nestor, editor of the bi-monthly newspaper Eclairages, was charged with defamation after Daoussa Déby Itno, former minister and brother of President Déby, filed a complaint about an article alleging his involvement in fraud in the sugar industry.
On 4 September, radio journalist Mbairaba Jean Paul was arrested and accused of defamation after he reported on a communal conflict between herders and farmers in Doba. He was released the following day and the prefect who ordered his arrest was removed from office.
Prisoners of conscience
The authorities continued to arrest and detain journalists for doing their work and activists and human rights defenders for exercising their freedoms of expression and opinion.
Online activist Tadjadine Mahamat Babouri (also known as Mahadine), who was arrested on 30 September 2016, remained in detention. He was arrested by ANS agents after posting several videos on Facebook criticizing the government’s alleged mismanagement of public funds. He was later charged with undermining the constitutional order, threatening territorial integrity and national security, and collaborating with an insurrectional movement. He reported that, while detained by the ANS, he was deprived of food and water for three days, electrocuted and beaten.
On 5 May, Maoundoe Decladore, spokesperson of the organization Ça doit changer (“It must change”), was arrested at night by four armed men in plain clothes in Moundou. He was detained for 25 days without any access to his family or lawyer, in what he believes was an ANS facility. He was transferred to the judicial police on 30 May and charged with public disorder. Maoundoe Decladore was released on bail due to his deteriorating health and was awaiting trial at the end of the year.
On 20 June, Sylver Beindé Bassandé, a journalist and director of community radio Al Nada FM in Moundou, was sentenced to two years in prison and fined XAF100,000 (USD180) by the High Court of Moundou for complicity in contempt of court and undermining judicial authority. He had been charged after airing a radio interview with a municipal councillor, who had criticized judges after having been convicted with two other councillors in a separate proceeding. Sylver Beindé Bassandé lodged an appeal and was released on bail on 19 July. On 26 September, the Court of Appeal overruled the decision by the High Court of Moundou, sentencing Sylver Beindé Bassandé to complicity in defamation and fined him XAF100,000 (USD180). He appealed to the Supreme Court.
Refugees and internally displaced people
More than 408,000 refugees from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Sudan continued to live in poor conditions in refugee camps. Insecurity caused by Boko Haram attacks and military operations resulted in the displacement of more than 174,000 people including at least 25,000 in 2017 alone.
In June, nearly 5,000 people fled a wave of Boko Haram attacks on villages around Kaiga Kindjiria and Tchoukoutalia, creating two new sites for internally displaced people: Kengua (Kiskra canton, Fouli department) and Kane Ngouboua (Diameron). Since July, around 6,700 people arrived in Baga Sola from Niger after the withdrawal of Chadian troops from the country and in fear of attacks from Boko Haram.
Right to food
The Chadian military continued to impose restrictions on the movement of people and goods along the shores of Lake Chad, hampering the livelihoods of communities and heightening the risk of food insecurity.
According to the UN, severe acute malnutrition increased from 2.1% to 3.4% in the region during the year. Countrywide, the UN estimated that 2.8 million people were food insecure, including more than 380,000 people at crisis or emergency level.