March 21, 2023

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August signing of Chad peace plan expected in Qatar: sources

August signing of Chad peace plan expected in Qatar: sources

Qatar seeks to hold a ministerial summit in early August to seal an accord between Chad’s military government and opposition rebels on a national peace dialogue, negotiators said Sunday.

The Gulf emirate’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani spoke with the Central African nation’s military leader, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, on Saturday, officials said.

The Gulf state’s mediators will meet with rebel negotiators this week in a bid to sway holdout groups.

“Qatar would like to get an accord settled this week so they can hold an international meeting soon,” said one negotiator.

Deby took power in April last year after his father, longtime leader Idriss Deby Itno, was killed in a battle with rebels. The son promised to hold elections within 18 months, with a prevision for extending that timetable.

Dozens of Chadian opposition and government officials have been in Doha since March to set the conditions for starting a national dialogue which would pave the way for a presidential election.

The dialogue has been postponed several times, most recently on July 16 when a host of rebel and political groups withdrew, accusing the government of seeking to destabilise peace efforts.

About a week later those groups said they were rejoining the process.

Diplomats monitoring the talks say there has been progress and a majority of groups have agreed to sign an accord so that talks can start in Ndjamena on August 20.

Those groups, however, are not the most powerful.

‘Good start’

The current document, seen by AFP, proposes a general ceasefire and gives security guarantees to rebel leaders who return for the N’Djamena talks. A special non-Chadian force would take care of security.

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“The negotiations with all opposition groups are still ongoing, and while we are still working with the parties to reach an agreement over the next steps, we hope to resume the next round at the beginning of August,” a Qatari government official told AFP.

Qatari mediators are still trying to persuade the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), one of the main rebel groups, to sign on and give the national dialogue a greater chance of success.

FACT leader Mahamat Mahdi Ali has described the current draft document as “a good start” but his negotiators have called for more government concessions.

Idriss Deby Itno died after suffering mortal wounds fighting the FACT, a large armed group with a rear base in Libya.

Qatar wants to quickly hold a formal signing ceremony in Doha with Deby and foreign ministers from key countries, including France, present.

The international community wants to avoid any further delay in the national dialogue, and a resulting threat to the landmark election, which could lead to Deby extending his transitional rule.