At least 40 groups sign a deal with the government to launch a national reconciliation dialogue, but the main rebel group refuses to take part.
Chad’s military government has signed a peace agreement with more than 40 opposition groups to begin a national reconciliation dialogue, but the country’s main rebel group has refused to participate.
According to the agreement, which was signed in the Qatari capital of Doha on Monday, talks to pave the way for a presidential election will begin on August 20.
Since March, Qatar has served as a go-between for opposition groups and the military government of Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, a general who took over after his father was killed in a battle with rebels last year.
Despite last-minute efforts by Qatar’s mediators, the main rebel group, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), said it would not sign the deal.
FACT said in a statement released before the deal was signed in Doha that it “rejects the accord that will be put to signatories on Monday.”
It went on to say that participants in the national dialogue would not be treated fairly, and it demanded the formation of a new committee to organize the talks, as well as the release of rebel prisoners from government prisons.
“However, the FACT remains available for dialogue anywhere and at any time,” the group, which has between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters, said in a statement.
FACT fighters led the rebel offensive that killed Deby’s father, Idriss Deby Itno, who had served as president for 30 years.
Chad has experienced little stability since its independence in 1960, and the upcoming talks will be closely watched because the country is seen as a key ally in international efforts to counter armed groups fighting throughout the region.
The talks, to be held in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, will seek “inclusive national reconciliation,” according to Qatar’s foreign ministry.
Officials previously stated that 42 of the 47 groups represented in the Doha talks would sign the agreement.
“We are extremely optimistic. “We are happy today because we signed a peace agreement,” Fadoul Hissein of the National Council for Reform, one of the groups involved in the agreement, told Al Jazeera, calling it “historic.”
“All Chadians will be pleased with this agreement,” he said, adding that international observers would keep an eye on it.
“The peace accord remains available in the future for anyone to come and participate.” I strongly encourage everybody who has not joined to do so. “They [FACT] are welcome to sign this agreement in the future,” he continued.
The Doha agreement requires signatories to observe a cease-fire during the N’Djamena discussions. The military administration has also promised that rebel commanders who attend the talks would be secure.
Qatar had hoped that FACT commander Mahamat Mahdi Ali would leave his desert base in Libya for the signing. However, FACT and other organizations claim that the promises were insufficient. They have also requested that Deby promise not to run in any elections in the future.
When Deby, 38, took control in April of last year, he pledged elections within 18 months.
However, his military government has retained the authority to extend its “transitional” rule for an additional 18 months. However, Deby is under pressure from France, the European Union, and the African Union to make the October deadline.
“Having this many organizations sign the pact is an excellent starting point for the national debate, but it will struggle without entities like FACT,” the chairman of one of the political groupings that have consented to sign the deal told the AFP news agency.
More than 1,300 delegates from rebel groups, civic society, labor unions, political parties, and government officials were expected to attend the N’Djamena discussions, according to the Chadian administration.