Banned anti-austerity protests met with arrests and police violence
On 22nd January 2018, the Minister of Interior and Security issued a decree on national radio prohibiting civil society protests slated for 25th January in all major cities. Organised by eight civil society organisations, the protests were to draw attention to the impact of the government's austerity measures and the rise in the price of fuel. The authorities sent an SMS to all owners of mobile phones, through two mobile operators, notifying people that the protests had been banned. The Minister of Interior and Security also said that security forces would enforce the ban. On 24th January, Mahamat Nour Ibedou, Secretary General of Convention Tchadienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (Chadian Convention for the Protection of Human Rights - CTDDH), announced at a press conference that despite the ban, CTDDH and some other CSOs would go ahead with the protests as planned, supported by the Collectif tchadien contre la vie chère (Chadian Collective against an Expensive Life), as well as the movement Iyina and a platform of labour unions.
On 25th January, security forces violently dispersed the civil society protest in the capital N'Djamena. Three activists from CTDDH were arrested and journalist Djimet Wiche of AlwihdaInfo was attacked, according to a statement by Amnesty International. Additionally, the internet was cut off on the night of 24th and 25th January, ahead of the protest. As previously reported on the Monitor, a civil society coalition announced on 4th December 2017 they would no longer accept the authorities' systematic ban on protests.
The civil society led anti-austerity protests followed a January strike in the transportation industry over the high price of fuel. Secondary school students also joined the strike. Police spokesperson Paul Manga claimed that the protests turned violent and police arrested a total of 143 people, including 64 students and 12 members of transportation trade unions on charges of "disturbing public order" and "destruction of public goods".
On 29th January, police officers arrested over 60 students and used tear gas to disperse students protesting in solidarity with a teachers' strike organised by the main trade union of the educational sector. The strike was organised in response to a decrease in teachers' salaries as part of the austerity measures included in the 2018 Budget Law.
On 29th January, the main trade unions in Chad announced a general and "unlimited" public sector strike against the austerity measures given the decrease in salaries of civil servants. At the time of writing, the strike was still ongoing.The private sector followed when the Confédération libre des travailleurs du Tchad (Free Confederation of Workers in Chad) announced a two-day strike on 5th and 6th February in response to the increase in the personal income tax rate from ten to 30 percent for employees - whether public servants or employees in the private sector.
On 23rd January 2018, authorities placed journalist Mahamat Issa Abakar from the newspaper Al Chahied in custody after receiving a complaint from the Embassy of Sudan in Chad about an article published in Al Chahied at the end of December 2017, claiming that Sudanese President El Bashir advised Turkish President Erdogan during his visit to Khartoum not to invest in Chad due to its "instability".
During the civil society led protests (see under Peaceful Assembly) on 25th January in N'Djamena, three police officers assaulted the director of the newspaper Alwihda Info, who was covering the protest. Internet access was cut off from the night of 24th to 25th January. The last time internet access was disrupted occurred during the presidential elections in April 2016.
Action Committee formed for the liberation of Mayadine Babouri
On 13th January 2018, a group of human rights activists launched an initiative to advocate for Mayadine Babouri's release. Babouri has been in detention since 30th September 2016 for posting critical comments on social media about the issue of poor governance in the country. Babouri was charged on 10th October 2016 for undermining the constitutional order and territorial integrity; however, he is still in preventive detention and has already exceeded the four-month term limit for such a detention. Manga Jean Bosco, spokesperson for the Action Committee for Babouri's release, said at the press conference that:
"The CAB [Action Committee] intends to be part of the dynamics of other actions undertaken by other organizations at the national and international level in relation to this flagrant violation of human rights in our country, yet said to be democratic ".
Human rights organisation prevented from conducting a fact-finding mission in Chokoyan
In January 2017, Governor Mahamat Bechir Okormi blocked a fact-finding mission by Convention Tchadienne pour la Défense des Droits Humains (Chadian Convention for the Defense of Human Rights) in Chokoyan in Ouaddaï region, according to the human rights organisation. The mission was to investigate a conflict between farmers and herders, which also involved security forces and left at least five people dead.