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Several hundred protest Chad junta

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A Chad national flag flies at half staff outside a building on April 21, 2021, after Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno died on April 20, 2021, from wounds suffred in battle after three decades in power.

Several hundred people marched in Chad’s capital N’Djamena on Thursday to protest the ruling military junta as police were out in force, an AFP journalist saw.

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The Transformers party and civil society groups had called for people to come out against “the confiscation of power” by the so-called Transitional Military Council (CMT) that has ruled the poor Sahel country since the death of President Idriss Deby Itno in April.

They demanded a national conference to overhaul the junta’s charter and restore democracy in the former French colony.

The CMT is led by the late president’s son, 37-year-old four-star general Mahamat Idriss Deby, who has consolidated nearly all powers around himself and 14 generals who were close to his father.

“We are marching to demand that democracy and justice — the hallmarks of true peace — be re-established,” said a 22-year-old protester who gave his name only as Narcisse, brandishing a sign reading “No to the monarchy”.

Security forces were massively deployed along the three-kilometre (two-mile) route on a central avenue of the capital, but the protest was largely peaceful.

Some protesters expressed anti-French sentiment with signs reading “France out of Chad”, and by burning French flags.

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French President Emmanuel Macron met with the new rulers while attending Idriss Deby Itno’s funeral — the only Western head of state to make the journey.

“France has to choose the Chadian people as its partner in dialogue, not just a small group of individuals,” said Max Loalngar, spokesman for opposition group Wakit Tamma.

“Otherwise it will be the eternal enemy of the Chadian people.”

Though the junta has promised “free and transparent” elections after an 18-month “transition” that could be extended, it has also dissolved parliament and repealed the constitution.

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It authorised the protest on Wednesday after changing the proposed route.

Opposition marches that went ahead on April 27 despite an official ban turned violent in N’Djamena and in the south of the country.

While the authorities said six people had died, a local NGO put the death toll at nine.

More than 600 people were arrested.

The junta has authorised several demonstrations in support of the military regime, but did not approve an opposition march until July 12.

In that instance, organisers cancelled the march after authorities changed the route.

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