Security forces kill at least 60 as protests sweep across Chad
N’DJAMENA, Chad — Chadian security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in the country’s two largest cities on Thursday, killing at least 60 people, the government spokesman and a morgue official said.
Authorities imposed a curfew after the violence, which came amid protests in the central African country against interim leader Mahamat Idriss Deby’s two-year extension of his rule.
Thursday’s unrest was unprecedented in Chad, which saw little public dissent under the previous regime of Deby’s father, who ruled for more than three decades until his assassination last year.
France, the African Union and others were quick to condemn the security crackdown on protesters.
Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s regional director for West and Central Africa, called on the Chadian authorities “to immediately cease the excessive use of force against protesters”.
“Authorities must take immediate action to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for unlawful killings,” she said.
Chadian government spokesman Aziz Mahamat Saleh said 30 people had died in the capital, N’Djamena. The organizers of the march, however, put the death toll higher, at 40, with many also injured by bullets. There was no independent corroboration of the figures given by either side.
Another 32 protesters were killed in Chad’s second city, Moundou, according to an official at the town’s morgue. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said more than 60 people were injured.
Other demonstrations took place in the towns of Doba and Sarh, in southern Chad.
These are the deadliest anti-government protests since Deby took power following the assassination of his father 18 months ago. Officials said the late President Idriss Deby Itno was killed by rebels while visiting Chadian troops on the battlefield in the north of the country in April 2021.
At the main referral hospital in the capital N’Djamena, overwhelmed doctors treated dozens of people with gunshot wounds. Some of the injured were taken to Liberty Hospital by army vehicles and bore signs of torture, witnesses said.
Witnesses say protesters began whistling at 3 a.m. across the capital N’Djamena. The police fired tear gas into the crowd, which continued to advance and their numbers increased. It was then that security forces opened fire, leaving protesters struggling to round up the dead at the scene amid tear gas.
Among those killed, a Chadian journalist, Narcisse Oredje, who worked for CEFOD radio, was shot.
Amnesty International said it was not the first time Chadian security forces had fired on civilians, citing two other incidents in 2022 and 2021.
Such public displays of dissent were unheard of during the reign of Deby’s father, but several protests have taken place since his son became acting leader.
Mahamat Idriss Deby was declared head of state after the death of his father instead of following the line of succession of the Chadian constitution. Opposition political parties at the time called the handover a coup, but later agreed to accept Deby as interim leader for 18 months.
Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal.