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Catholic bishops call for ‘inclusive dialogue’ as Chad’s president is buried after battlefield death

Late President Idriss Déby Itno who succumbed to injuries from a battle with the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) on 20 April 2021. Idriss Déby, president of Chad from 1990 until his death on April 20, 2021, from battlefield injuries./ Presidency of the Republic of Chad.

As Chad’s president was buried on Friday, Catholic bishops in the African nation urged warring parties to take part in an “inclusive national dialogue.”

Idriss Déby, who had led the country since 1990, died April 20 from injuries sustained in battle against a dissident army rebel group known as Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) in the north of the country.

Chad, a Muslim-majority nation of around 16 million people, is located in north-central Africa and bordered by Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger. According to the Pew Research Center, 23% of the population is Catholic.

In an April 22 statement, the bishops said that they joined “their voices to that of all Chadian men and women to call for an inclusive national dialogue which should be a dialogue of reconciliation.”

“This inclusive national dialogue for reconciliation is today a necessity for lasting peace in our country,” they said.

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“It is necessary to create the conditions for its success. This dialogue, conducted by a politically independent, credible, and neutral body, will enable all the sons and daughters of our country to lay the foundations of a new consensual political order based on respect for individuals, concern for the common good, and the promotion of social justice.”

The bishops underscored the need for a cease-fire so that the inclusive national dialogue could bear fruit.

“It is necessary that all the warring parties unilaterally declare a cease-fire without conditions and drop their weapons,” they said in the statement, signed by Archbishop Edmond Djitangar Goetbé, archbishop of N’Djaména and president of the Episcopal Conference of Chad.

Déby was reportedly killed while visiting troops on the front line. According to Reuters, he was seen by Western powers as an ally in the fight against Islamist extremist groups, including Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin and groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel.

A transitional council of military officers appointed Deby’s 37-year-old son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, as interim president. He will oversee the Transitional Military Council (CMT), a 15-member team expected to guide Chad during a transition period of 18 months.

Following his death, the CMT announced a 14-day national mourning period. The government and National Assembly have been dissolved and a nationwide curfew imposed from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. The country’s borders have also been closed.

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In their statement, the bishops said: “In this Easter season, our country is severely affected by the loss of so many compatriots, victims of recent fighting, of which our president is unfortunately one. We commit him and all the other victims of the clashes that we deplore to the mercy of God.”

“We share the anxieties and hopes of the Chadian people who are currently writing a delicate and decisive page in their history. To our people, anxious about the present and the future, we address a message of peace from the risen Christ: Peace be with you.”

“May the hearts of Chadian men and women receive this message of peace and not be troubled, for the Easter season brings promises of rebirth and victories: the victory of light over darkness, of peace over violence, of reconciliation over all conflicts that threaten the dignity of human life and the stability of our country.”

In a televised address April 20, army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said: “The National Council of Transition reassures the Chadian people that all measures have been taken to guarantee peace, security, and the republican order.”

Referring to the army spokesman’s message, Chad’s bishops said: “The transition should be conducted with strict respect for the constitutional order.”

The bishop invited “the Catholic faithful and all believers to intensify prayers so that God will instill in the hearts of each Chadian the will for dialogue, reconciliation, brotherhood, and peace.”

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“Then we will be able to better resist the demons of violence and thus build a new Chad,” the bishops said. “May Our Lady of Peace, Patroness of Chad, intercede with us and for us.”

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA's African news partner, written by Jude Atemanke. It has been adapted by CNA.

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