Junta-nominated Chad PM says to run for presidentSun, 10 Mar 2024 17:35:10 GMT

Chad’s junta-appointed prime minister announced Sunday that he would contest presidential elections set for May 6, just days after incumbent General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno announced his own candidacy.Succes Masra, a former opposition leader, returned from exile and signed a reconciliation deal with Deby Itno before becoming premier this year.The opposition says Masra’s candidacy is a ploy to give an appearance of pluralism in a vote the junta chief is certain to win, with his main rivals dead or in exile.Masra, 40, unveiled his election bid at a campaign meeting attended by hundreds of supporters of his Transformers party, saying he wanted to “heal hearts and unite the people”.Responding to critics who denounced his decision to ally with the junta, Masra defended “an agreement of the brave” that meant “our quest for justice is never transformed into a quest for revenge”.Masra had quit his job at the African Development Bank in 2016 to found the Transformers.He had been one of the leading opponents of Chad’s veteran ruler Field Marshal Idriss Deby Itno, father of the current transitional president, who died in 2021 after 30 years in power.Masra had also condemned the “coup” that saw the young Deby Itno quickly proclaimed president by a junta of 15 generals.The new president promised to hand power back to a civilian government within 18 months and told the African Union he would not stand for election as president.But he then extended the transition period by two more years and on March 2 officially announced he would run for the top office.Masra had organised protests that were banned or systematically repressed, until October 22, 2022, when hundreds were shot dead by security forces, according to international NGOs, and about 1,000 more jailed.The junta recognised 50 deaths and accused protesters of attempted insurrection.’Fake candidacy’Masra fled Chad before returning on November 3 to sign the reconciliation deal that amnestied the October 22 demonstrators, as well as those who opened fire.His bid for the presidency is “a farce, a fake candidacy to accompany the head of military power”, Max Kemkoye, spokesman for the GCAP grouping of opposition parties, told AFP.Masra announced his candidacy days after general Deby’s main rival Yaya Dillo Dejerou was shot dead on February 28 in an army assault on his PSF party headquarters.The PSF said he had been assassinated at point-blank range to prevent his standing against the general, his own cousin. The government denied the accusation.”After the assassination of Yaya Dillo, Masra is working with power in a process that is warped from the start. He will be kept on as prime minister,” predicted the Democrats party leader Avocksouma Djona Atchenemou.For constitutional expert Ahmat Mahamat Hassan, “It’s an arranged candidacy to propel Masra to the head of a major institution such as the National Assembly… to reward him for the elections.””There has never been a peaceful handover over power by elections in Chad,” he noted.”Power is won by arms and all democratic exercises are just cosmetic manoeuvres for legitimacy,” said Mahamat Hassan, recalling the six elections won by Marshal Deby against make-weight candidates following his coup in 1990.