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Cablegate: Ndjamena 005: Civil Society Warns of Precarious Political

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PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUCNESB #0013/01 0531815
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 221815Z FEB 08
FM USDEL FEST TWO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0013
INFO RUCNESB/USDEL FEST TWO 0024
RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0012
RUEHBP/AMEMBASSY BAMAKO 0010
RUEHNM/AMEMBASSY NIAMEY 0013
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0012
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0012
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0010
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 0013
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0013
RUFGAID/USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE
RUCQIES/SOCOM IESS MACDILL AFB FL
RHEFDHP/DIA DHP-1 WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 0003

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 FEST TWO 000013

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PARIS AND LONDON FOR AFRICA WATCHERS ; CAPETOWN FOR DAS SWAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PREF PGOV PHUM SU CD
SUBJECT: NDJAMENA 005: CIVIL SOCIETY WARNS OF PRECARIOUS POLITICAL
AND SECURITY SITUATION

REF: NDJAMENA 001

FEST TWO 00000013 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) Summary. In the aftermath of the February 2-3 "Battle
of N'Djamena," Chadian civil society is expressing new levels of
concern at the deteriorating human rights situation and the
apparent single-minded determination of President Deby to
proceed with a military solution to what they perceive to be a
political crisis. In assuring the President military support
without obtaining any concessions in return, they fear that the
Government of France has given Deby free rein to indulge his
most autocratic inclinations. They hope for peace, but are not
optimistic that peace will return soon. While recognizing that
the armed opposition brings no panacea, and in fact may ignite a
new battle for succession, they still yearn for change -- any
change. The EAC will meet to discuss the highly unsettled
political situation. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Emboffs and the Ambassador met with members of civil
society to discuss the current human rights situation and civil
society perspectives on the political and security situation.
Contacts included one of the few human rights activists
remaining in country (the local representative of the League of
Human Rights), the President of the business association
Patronat, a leading lawyer active in defending the human rights
community, two of Chad's most prominent businessmen, the only
two members of the core group of the opposition coalition who
are not in detention, hiding or exile and a banker with close
family ties to President Deby.

HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS - BUT WHO WILL BEAR WITNESS?
--------------------------------------------- --------------
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Most of Chad's prominent human rights activists --
never many in number -- are in exile in France or biding their
time in Cameroon. With their departure, Chad has lost the
individuals and organizations who normally take the lead in
advocacy and reporting on human rights abuses and liaise with
international human rights organizations. As reported reftel,
activists Delphine Djiraibe and Jacqueline Modeina sought French
protection and are in Paris. Daniel Passalet of the Chadian
League of Human Rights informed the Embassy that he had left
Chad for Cameroon. The press is equally silenced. To protest
the censorship effective under the State of Emergency, the
independent press has announced that they will suspend
publication indefinitely. FM Liberte, an independent radio
station, had already been closed down by the government before
the events of February 2-3. Radio France International (RFI)
and BBC World Service, two important sources of information for
Chadians, are only available on short wave until repairs are
made to their antenna (damaged in the fighting). The only
source of local information is the national radio (temporarily
reporting via another radio station until its equipment is
repaired) and the government mouthpiece newspaper "Le Progress."
The work permit of the local RFI correspondent, Sonia Roulay,
has been suspended and RFI has no other reporters on the ground.
Roulay believes that the GOC responded to pressure from the
French Government to suspend her permit as a result of French
unhappiness with her reporting on the round-up of opposition
leaders. She thinks she may soon be expelled. It is hard to
understate the importance of RFI as a source of information on
Chad and on events in the rest of the world.

4. (SBU) In the aftermath of the battle, and under the current
State of Emergency, the Government of Chad appears to be casting
a wide net to sweep up those individuals who might potentially
have had contacts with the rebels or who would be, in the event
of an Erdimi/Nouri victory, candidates for membership in a new
transitional government. The arrest of Lol Mahamat Choa, former
President and widely regarded as a national figure with stature
and respect sufficient to lead a transitional government is the
best example. Prominent Anakaza Gorans (the group to which
Mahamat Nouri belongs) appear to be particularly targeted. For
example, well-known Goran businessman Mahamat Abassi (the
landlord of some Embassy properties) was taken for questioning
on February 20. According to his sons, his name allegedly
appeared on a list of members of a "welcome committee for the
rebels." Emboffs have also heard rumors of summary executions

FEST TWO 00000013 002.2 OF 003


in the palace, with bodies being dumped into the Chari and
washing up in Guelfe (Cameroon). Human Rights Watch researcher
David Buchbinder is in country investigating these and other
reports. On a more prosaic level, systematic sweeps of the
popular quartiers - allegedly to find goods that had been looted
-- are providing opportunities for poorly disciplined police and
gendarmes to terrorize the population and help themselves to
goods which they claim are looted. The Governments announcement
of an award (about $500) for information on wounded or hiding
rebels is the talk of the town. Ironically, according to the
local population, the conduct of the rebels during the two day
battle was pretty much above reproach in terms of discipline and
respect for civilian populations.

AFTERMATH OF THE BATTLE - THE POPULATION BEARS THE BRUNT
--------------------------------------------- --------------
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (SBU) The fact that President Deby "allowed" the battle to
enter the capital is a source of great anger to N'djamena
residents. More than one contact has expressed outrage at the
bombing of the Central Market by government helicopters which
put many civilians at risk. In their words: "the President is
using our oil money to buy helicopters to bomb his people.".
The subsequent looting of much of the city has been cause for
reflection. Most can understand looting for economic reasons,
but the general view is that the looting was also a statement of
rage against the government and the elites. "He has stolen for
17 years; I am only stealing today" a white-bearded gentleman
told a contact as he toted off a piece of furniture from a
looted house. Government official's houses were targeted. The
Minister of Health and the Prime Minister's houses were among
those looted. Looters sacked houses of relatives of the
President, such as the Deputy Director of the BCC bank who is
the President's son-in-law. According to a prominent lawyer
with contacts in the government, government ministers are asking
themselves "if the government cannot even protect the houses of
its Cabinet Ministers, who can it protect?" The vandalizing and
looting also suggested that if the people of N'Djamena one day
chose to manifest themselves for a political cause, the
government forces would be quickly overwhelmed. While political
demonstrations are practically unknown, one contact warned that
if prominent political opposition leader Yorongar (current
whereabouts unknown) were to be killed, the people of N'Djamena
- and particularly the southerners who constitute his primary
political base - would rise up in anger in a way not seen
before.

POLITICAL DIALOGUE - THE ONLY WAY AHEAD?
--------------------------------------------- --------------
---------------
6. (SBU) Looking ahead, there is no disagreement among civil
society contacts that a political solution is the only way
forward. A military solution cannot be found. All concur that
this is a matter that the President needs to resolve with his
family members and his other close associates. They have no
love for the rebels, but see no sense in a "family argument"
wrecking the painfully small gains in stability and development
that Chad has been able to achieve over the past few years.
Most contacts believe that the President urgently needs to
signal to the country that there is a plan for transition. The
President could agree not to run again and hand-pick his
successor (this individual might even have a good chance of
winning in a free election.) The goal may not be the
individual, but simply change -- any change. But contacts is
also recognized that the President is totally intransigent on
the question of stepping down. In the face of his inability to
move towards dialogue, contact after contact said that only
international pressure - including from the United States -
could bring a peaceful solution and spare the Chadians more war.

FRENCH POSITION CRITICIZED
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (SBU) In this context, the French Government decision to
announce its military support for President Deby has shocked
many here, including opposition political party leaders Salibo

FEST TWO 00000013 003.2 OF 003


Garba and Jean Alingue . They feel that it is inconceivable
that the French could do this without insisting on some sort of
preconditions, such as a ceasefire, an opening for discussions,
or a public announcement that the President would not run again.
Their grave concern is that the President, having scored this
diplomatic coup, may now act with complete impunity. Deby
"watchers" say that the President, in the meantime, is "changed"
"shocked," "in a state of distress," "overreacting" and visibly
isolated in the Palace.

ZAGHAWA CONCERNS
-----------------------------------

8. (SBU) The concerns of the Zaghawa community represent a
special case. Members of the President's clan are concerned
that the President is ruining their chances of continuing to
enjoy the fruits of power and prestige. Not only are they
bearing the brunt of the battlefield losses, but they see
President Deby heading down a path which will mean disaster for
his country and for his clan. A contact recounted his aged
relative lamenting the fact that Chad always been used as a
"rear-base" for the Zaghawa when times were tough in Sudan. Now
he was concerned that this zone of protection might be on the
way out. The targeting of Zaghawa residences during the
looting was a harbinger of things to come; one commentator
warned that a mini-genocide against the Zaghawa was not out of
the question in the event that President Deby was overthrown.
Those who ascribe much of Chad's problems to its Sudan
adventures - an enterprise of interest to a tiny fraction of the
population -- are concerned that the Kobe wing of the clan -
represented by the JEM, and highly militarized - is in the
ascendancy. They believe that unless Chad is willing to
decisively cease its involvement in Darfur matters, Sudan will
continue to fan the flames of civil unrest in Chad.

WHAT LIES AHEAD: RESUMPTION OF ATTACKS OR COUP D'ETAT?
--------------------------------------------- --------------
------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) It is commonly assumed that the rebels will seek to
strike again. How and where the French would step in to stop
them is not known. That the ANT will be useless in the face of
a rebel threat is a given for most. Between defections and
outright complicity with the rebels it is believed they will not
defend the President. On the other hand, a coup d'etat is also
seen as a highly plausible scenario given the unhappiness within
the army and discontentment within the President's clan.

10. (SBU) Embassy EAC met informally on February 21 to discuss
Embassy preparedness for a resumption of rebel attacks or coup
d'etat. We will meet on February 22 to assess the local
security situation and approve next steps.
NIGRO

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