Chad-junta refuses to negotiate with rebels after calling for bilateral “ceasefire”

Chad’s new ruling junta said on Sunday it would not negotiate with rebels who launched an offensive in the poor Sahel two weeks ago and are accused of killing veteran leader Idriss Deby Itno. A rebel spokesman said late on Saturday that they were ready to watch a ceasefire and discuss a political solution.

“The time is not right for mediation or negotiations with the lawless,” Azem Bermandoa Agouna, a spokesman for the military council, said in a statement the day after the rebels said they were ready to watch a ceasefire. The military junta in front of the country is led by the late strongman’s son Mahamat Idriss Deby.

Earlier on Sunday, a spokesman for the rebels, known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), said once again that they were ready to watch a ceasefire and discuss a political solution after the battlefield’s death for President Deby last week.

“FACT is ready to watch a ceasefire for a political solution that respects Chad’s independence and sovereignty and does not support a coup,” FACT spokesman Kingabe Ogouzeimi de Tapol told Reuters early Sunday.

Junta asks Niger to help capture rebel leaders

The FACT rebels crossed the northern border from Libya on April 11 and demanded an end to Deby’s 30-year rule. They reached as close as 200-300 km from the capital N’Djamena, before the rebels were driven back by the army.

Deby was killed on Monday when he visited troops at the front, shortly after he won the presidential election and gave him his sixth term. His death shocked the Central African country, which has long been a Western ally of Islamist militants.

Chad’s military junta on Sunday also asked neighboring Niger for help in capturing the head of FACT rebels, after claiming that Mahamat Mahadi Ali had fled Chad to Niger after heavy fighting. “Chad calls for Niger’s cooperation and solidarity … to facilitate the capture and prosecution of these war criminals,” a spokesman said.

FACT rebels against a “monarchy”

The air force has since bombed rebel positions, the military and rebels said. The military said on Saturday that they had “wiped out” the rebels.

“We have confirmed our availability to observe a ceasefire, a ceasefire … but this morning we were bombed again,” Mahamat Mahadi Ali, head of FACT, told AFP late Saturday.

Mahadi Ali warned that the ceasefire must be followed by both sides. “We cannot respect the ceasefire unilaterally. A ceasefire must be made on both sides. We will not lay down our arms and allow ourselves to be massacred,” he said.

But a junta spokesman said both sides were at war. “They are rebels, that’s why we bomb them. We are at war, that’s all,” Agouna said.

A military council led by Deby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, seized power after Deby’s death and said it intended to monitor an 18 – month run for office. The rebels said it would not oppose a “monarchy” and opposition politicians called it a coup.

Opposition leaders demand national dialogue

Opposition politicians and civil society have called for peaceful protests and a national dialogue to end the crisis.

On Friday, Chad organized a state funeral for Idriss Deby Itno, a lineman in the fight against the Sahel’s jihadist uprising. France, the former colonial power in Chad, and regional allies threw their support behind Deby’s son Mahamat.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in his tribute to the fallen president: “You lived like a soldier, you died like a soldier, weapons in your hands”.

“France will never allow anyone, neither today nor tomorrow, to challenge Chad’s stability and integrity,” Macron promised. But Macron also called on the newly appointed military government to promote “stability, inclusion, dialogue, democratic transition”.

(FRANCE WITH AFP & REUTERS)

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