The country has been in a political crisis since President Idriss Deby was killed in combat in April 2021. His son, Mahamat Idriss Deby (38), took over as interim president and had initially promised not to be involved in the elections following his 18-month transition to civilian rule. Still, as the deadline approached, he pushed it back at a national forum he spearheaded.
After many obstacles and rebel groups backing out, N'Djamena welcomed over 1400 military, civil society, opposition parties, trade unions, and rebel groups in August for the highly anticipated national dialogue. The dialogue was meant to foster "lasting peace" and be a space to openly discuss means to reform state institutions, create a brand new constitution, the upcoming elections, and demilitarisation of the armed groups that signed the Doha peace deal and Chad's overall future.
Reports of unrest in the capital city surfaced on Thursday, 20 October. Aziz Mahamat Saleh, the government's spokesperson, tallied the number of deaths at 30. However, the march organisers reported 40. City morgue officials added that 32 more demonstrators were gunned down in the country's second-largest city, Moundou. An overwhelming number of victims suffered gunshot wounds which the official placed at approximately 60.
Protesters were attacked with tear gas in a futile attempt by the police to control the growing crowd. Security forces proceeded to fire live ammunition at the group that had taken to the streets to mark the day the military first promised to hand over power. On 1 October, Deby announced that the deadline had been extended by another two years. The protesters demanded a quicker transition to democratic rule.
Oredje Narcisse, a Chadian journalist, is among those who law enforcement killed. More confirmed victims include a police officer, a 28-year-old protester shot in the neck, and Chadian musician Ray's Kim, who died in hospital.
Opposition parties and civil society groups called for the protests on Thursday. However, the government banned them on security grounds. In the early morning, roads were barricaded, and demonstrators set the prime minister's party headquarters alight. Prime Minister Saleh Kebzabo called the protest an "armed insurrection."
"What happened today is an armed popular uprising to seize power by force and those responsible for this violence will face justice," he said. "The demonstrators had firearms and they are considered rebels. The security forces responded only in self-defence."
"There's real concern about the military extending its rule and continuing these violations of human rights," Political analyst Ovigwe Eguegu told Al Jazeera.
In response to the unrest, the government declared a state of emergency and a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. This decision followed a state of emergency already announced on Wednesday after the floods that affected over 1 million people.
"It's clear that an impartial investigation is needed to determine if protesters resorted to looting and violence and if security forces unlawfully resorted to lethal force across the country," said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch.