Chad / AFP
The nationwide strikes which brought Chad’s biggest cities to a halt this week over President Idriss Deby Itno’s planned bid for re-election are some of the most significant protests of the hardliner’s 26-year rule.
The strike, which ran under the slogan “That’s Enough”, successfully locked down N’Djamena, leaving classrooms emptied and the capital’s two big markets deserted in a protest mirrored in cities across the country.
In the capital, people are still amazed by the sheer scale of the work stoppage during Wednesday’s “dead city” operation, saying they can recall no demonstration as large against their hardline leader.
The stoppage was organised by a coalition of civil society organisations grouped under the name “Ca Suffit”—French for ‘that’s enough’.
The morning to lunchtime shutdown “was total” in Chad’s second-biggest city, Moundou, a resident said, who said not even the motorbike taxis were running.
“The population has realised they can exercise their democratic rights,” coalition spokesman Mahamat Nour Ibedou said, saying the protest was even observed in provincial towns.
Many Chadians are fed up with entrenched poverty, especially since their country has begun to make money from oil exports.
In recent weeks, Chad has been gripped by a wave of unrest with students taking to the street in fury over the gang rape of a girl in mid-February, allegedly by the sons of a government minister and three army generals.
The girl was allegedly kidnapped and gang-raped by five young men who then posted a video online showing the victim naked and in tears.
The protests began on February 15 Deby’s regime banned demonstrations with the army enforcing the ban, firing on youths, with two students killed and a least five wounded in a week of protests, hospital staff and human rights activists said.
The authorities also blocked access to Facebook and other social networks to crack down on the dissent, but the unprecedented city shutdown fired up talk in white-collar offices as well as in the working-class districts.
“This is the first time in the history of this country that people unanimously respect an appeal from civil society,” said Issa Moussa, who works at the ministry of territorial administration.