ISSN 2330-717X

Chad: Killings By Security Forces In East

By

Security forces killed at least 13 people, including a 12-year-old child, and injured over 80 others in Abéché, Ouaddaï province, Chad, on January 24 and 25, 2022, Human Rights Watch and the Chadian Convention for the Defence of Human Rights (Convention Tchadienne de Défense des Droits de l’Homme – CTDDH) said Wednesday. 

Advertisement

On January 24, security forces violently dispersed thousands of peaceful protesters who took to the streets of Abéché from the Mahamat Yacoub Dobio high school to the independence square to demonstrate against plans to appoint a new traditional chief from the ethnic Bani Halba community in Abéché. The city already has a traditional leader, called the sultan, from the Ouaddaïen community. The soldiers killed three people and injured at least 40 others. On January 25, at the funeral for those killed at the Tago Zagalo cemetery, soldiers indiscriminately shot live rounds again, killing an additional 10 people and injuring at least 40 others.

“The decision by security forces to open fire on peaceful protesters and residents is completely unjustifiable,” said Mahamat Nour Ahmat Ibédou, secretary general of the CTDDH. “Only a thorough and impartial investigation into the excessive use of force by security forces will be able to establish who is responsible and bring them to account.”

Some of the soldiers firing on the crowd appeared to be members of the Chadian army, as well as Chadian members of the Mixed Force, a Chadian/Sudanese military unit. The soldiers used teargas, assault rifles, and machine guns. During the January 24 protests, the soldiers also arrested 212 people, some of them arbitrarily, beating some of them and holding detainees in inhuman conditions for up to five days without charge. Those arrested were released between January 25 and 28.

Between January 30 and February 13, Human Rights Watch and the CTDDH interviewed 27 people by telephone, including 11 witnesses. Two of the witnesses had been arrested on January 24, and four injured. Human Rights Watch and the CTDDH also interviewed family members of victims, two medical professionals, and representatives of local civil society organizations.

Researchers also reviewed eight videos and 41 photographs shared directly with the two organizations or posted on social media platforms showing the excessive use of force by security forces on both days, along with medical records, death certificates, burial permits, media articles, and government statements. CTDDH representatives from N’Djamena visited Abéché from February 1 to 6 and met with local authorities, including Ahmat Dari Bazine, the governor of Ouaddaï province; Abdraman Mahamat, the commander of the gendarmerie company; Nicolas Ehka Pahimi, public prosecutor at the Abéché district court; Ahmat Nhonorti, delegate of the national police, Ousmane Bahr Mahamat Itno, commander of the Mixed Force and Hanno Mouro, commander of the military zone 2 and Abakar Hissein, the Ouaddaï province’s secretary general.

Advertisement

In a January 26 news release, Abderaman Koulamallah, the Chadian communication minister, said he regretted the “loss of human lives” but told the media that security forces did not use live ammunition against protesters and residents. “It is impossible to determine whether the gunshots were fired by security forces or by the protesters,” he said. On February 5, the CTDDH met with Mahamat, who said that on January 24 gendarmes seized 30 knives, 25 arrows, 4 grenades, and 9 guns of various calibers among the protesters. 

However, Koulamallah’s and Mahamat’s positions are at odds with the findings by Human Rights Watch and the CTDDH, as well as the accounts of all witnesses interviewed. A protester from Abéché’s Goz Amir neighborhood told Human Rights Watch: “Soldiers fired everywhere. They shot at close range and indiscriminately at protesters. I saw people falling down, dead or injured.”

At least three witnesses said Governor Dari Bazine was present when security forces opened fire on protesters in Abéché’s main square on January 24. One of them, a 29-year-old man, said, “At 11 a.m. military vehicles came along with a Toyota V8 car with tinted windows. That was the car of the governor, I recognized it. Things got heated and following consultations between the military and those in the Toyota [the governor’s car], the shooting began.” Following the incidents, the population of Abéché called on the governor to resign. On February 2, the CTDDH met with the governor, the commander of the Mixed Force, and the commander of the military zone 2, but they refused to answer any questions about these events.

On February 23, the territorial administration minister issued a decree replacing him with Ibrahim Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, though the administrator did not say why.

Between January 27 and February 3, Chad’s communication, justice, public security, and territorial administration ministers visited Abéché to calm tensions and find a solution to the crisis. The ministers met with those injured at the hospital and the family members of victims. They also gave 423,000 CFA (US$731) to each of the 13 families of victims as compensation for their losses. “The money can cover some of the funeral expenses, but a human life is not worth that amount,” said the uncle of Moutawakil Yakhoub, a 28-year-old mechanic shot in the chest and killed by soldiers on January 25. “We want justice to be delivered and the killers of our sons brought before the courts.”

Internet and telephone networks were shut down in Abéché between January 24 and 28, making communication about the events almost impossible. Nationwide internet disruptions have been common in Chad since 2016. Digital rights organizations and members of the internet measurement community have reported a combined figure of 911 days of intentional internet disruptions of internet access or restrictions on access to some social media networks between the 2016 presidential election and April 2021.

International law and Chad’s transitional charter protect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression and prohibit the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials.

The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms state that law enforcement officials may use force only in proportion to the seriousness of the offense, and that the intentional use of lethal force is permitted only when strictly unavoidable to protect life. International human rights standards require internet-based restrictions to be both necessary and proportionate responses to a specific national security concern. The United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned measures by governments to prevent or disrupt online access to information and called on countries to refrain from such measures.

On February 4, Communication Minister Abderaman Koulamallah told the media that a police investigation had been opened into the incidents. But the outcome is yet to be made public.

The violence in Abéché was condemned by local human rights and civil society groups, lawyers, the National Commission for Human Rights, and Chad’s international partners. In a January 27 joint statement, the European delegation in Chad and diplomats from Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States expressed concerns about “the use of live bullets against protesters,” and called for the reestablishment of the internet and telecommunication networks and for respect for the right of peaceful assembly.

“Grieving families are waiting for answers from their government,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Central Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It should be a priority for the Chadian transitional authorities to ensure that all those responsible for this tragic loss of life are held to account.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.