By Ebi Kesiena
Chad’s military government has decried the lack of interest by eligible 8 million voters in the December 17 constitutional referendum that would pave the way for a return to civilian rule.
Local media reports that there is an ongoing campaign for voter participation taking place as opposition and civil society calls for a total boycott of what they call Sunday’s sham referendum.
In a statement on Saturday, the National Commission Charged with the Organization of Chad’s December 17 Constitutional Referendum, or CONOREC, noted that several million voters have not collected their voter cards less than 48 hours ahead of Sunday’s referendum.
According to CONOREC, without voter cards, civilians who registered will not be allowed to vote in the referendum on a new constitution that sets the stage for elections and a return to civilian rule.
Chad’s military government this week said it had dispatched what it called friendly civil society groups, opposition parties, and government ministers to towns and villages, to some 8.5 million voters CONOREC says are eligible to cast their votes on December 17.
Reacting to government concerns, Brice Mbaimon Guedmbaye, a former presidential candidate and president of the opposition Movement of Chadian Patriots for the Republic explained that majority of civilians do not believe the referendum will pave the way for Chad’s military ruler Mahamat Idriss Deby to leave power because he initially refused to hand power to a civilian government in October 2022 as agreed and instead extended the transition period by two years.
Guedmbaye noted that many civilians are angry and want Chad to adopt a federal system, end the dictatorship and the grip on power exerted by the Deby family on the country for 30 years.
Mahamat Idris Déby came to power on April 20, 2021, following the death of his father Idriss Déby Itno while fighting rebels in the north of his country. The rebels were fighting to end what they called Itno’s 31-yearlong autocratic rule.
His son took power and promised to organize elections within 18 months but instead extended his rule until November 2024.
Civil society and opposition leaders say the referendum the military leader is organizing cannot be taken seriously because Deby rules with an iron fist, and cracks down on freedom of speech and assembly.
However, Sunday’s constitutional referendum will enable the junta to manage Chad’s transition until presidential elections are held by October 2024.
While Chad’s opposition says the constitution to be voted on Sunday does not bar Deby, a 39-year-old military general, from participating in Chad’s 2024 presidential election.