By John Ikani
Chad on Saturday extended the transition period to democratic elections, while keeping the head of the military junta on as head of state in the interim.
The decisions were made by a national reconciliation dialogue forum, which has been boycotted by most opposition members, two out of three key armed rebel groups and civil society organizations.
The forum adopted by “consensus” a measure to “extend the transition for a maximum of 24 months.”
The hundreds of delegates also decided that junta leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno would not only continue as transitional president but be eligible to run for the presidency when elections are held.
Government spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah said there would be a debate on Monday before an official decision is announced.
Deby took over in April last year after his father, Idriss Deby Itno, the country’s ruler for 30 years, was killed during a military operation against rebels.
He had pledged to hand back power to civilians after 18 months, a deadline that would run out this month.
He also pledged to Chadians and the international community that he would not run in the upcoming presidential elections.
After coming to power, the junta of 15 generals, called the Transitional Military Council, scrapped the constitution, dissolved parliament and dismissed the government.
The international community had urged Deby not to extend the transition beyond 18 months before the return of civilian rule, and not to run for president in the eventual elections.
However, in June last year, the junta leader dealt a first blow to those hopes, envisaging another 18 months of transition “if the Chadians do not manage to reach an agreement” on the way forward.
He also said then that he would leave the question of his presidential candidacy to God.