- Title: CHAD: President Idriss Deby gives final pre-election rally
- Date: 1st May 2006
- Summary: (W4) N'DJAMENA, CHAD (APRIL 30, 2006) (REUTERS) WIDE SHOT CROWD OF MILITANTS SAT ON STANDS IN STADIUM WITH SOLDIERS IN FOREGROUND; GIANT POSTER OF IDRIS DEBY WITH CROWDS IN STANDS IN BACKGROUND; GROUP OF CHADIAN ARMY SOLDIERS WITH RPG ROCKETS AND MACHINE GUNS (HEAVILY ARMED); MAN ENTERTAINING CROWD WITH PUPPETS; CROWDS IN STANDS WITH WOMAN SINGING IN FOREGROUND VARIOUS OF IDRIS DEBY WAVING AT CROWD OF MILITANTS FROM STAGE; WOMAN WITH MPS FLAG DANCING; DEBY ADDRESSING SUPPORTERS (MILITANTS); MILITANTS CHEERING AND WAVING AT DEBY (10 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 16th May 2006 13:00
- Location: Chad
- Country: Chad
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA7L9ZWZXGP7NZCBO65IW7DP0L
- Story Text: Chad's President Idriss Deby looked forward on Sunday (April 30) to almost certain re-election for a third five-year term in a poll being held this week amid an opposition boycott and threats of rebel attacks.
Analysts say a victory in Wednesday's (May 3) election for Deby, who faces a token challenge from four other candidates who are either allies or pose no real threat, is a foregone conclusion.
But they fear the extension of his nearly 16-year rule could trigger a civil war in the arid, landlocked central African state, which became an oil producer in 2003. Deby, an ex-army chief who seized control in a 1990 revolt, presents himself as a guarantor of stability in the former French colony twice the size of France which has been plagued by ethnic feuding and conflict since independence in 1960.
Deby, flanked by his wife and surrounded by heavily armed soldiers, told around 8,000 cheering supporters at a final campaign rally in an N'Djamena sports stadium that he had responded to their appeal for a third term.
Deby portrays his government, which receives aid and investment from France, the U.S. and Taiwan, as a strategic bulwark resisting the spread of Arab fundamentalism in Sub-Saharan Africa, a threat he says is posed by neighbour Sudan, where China is the major backer.
Rebels fighting to oust Deby, who raced from the east in pickup trucks to strike at N'Djamena earlier this month, say they will try to disrupt the May 3 poll and have announced a plan to coordinate fresh attacks.
Timan Erdimi, a nephew of Deby and former close aide who leads a newly formed rebel group, the Rally of Democratic Forces (RAFD) said they would do everything in their power to stop the vote.
Deby recalled the April 13 rebel attack in his speech, saying the capital had been "hit by mercenaries who came from Sudan". He observed a minute's silence for those killed.
Chad's main opposition parties are boycotting the presidential election as a farce aimed at keeping Deby in power.
He criticised them as misguided anti-democrats and said "the devil will make the sky fall on their heads". Analysts fear Deby's rejection of opposition calls to postpone the polls will drag Africa's fifth-largest country and its more than 10 million people into another debilitating conflict.
Observers say if the situation in Chad deteriorates this can only worsen the parallel ethnic and political conflict in Sudan's neighbouring Darfur region, which has spilled marauding horse- and camel-riding raiders, armed rebel groups and thousands of refugees into desolate eastern Chad.
Deby has warned that unless the United Nations speeds up plans to secure Darfur, his country may no longer be able to shelter nearly 300,000 Sudanese refugees safely. Deby's political strength had been sapped by coup scares and high-level desertions from his government and army in recent months, including members of his own Zaghawa ethnic clan his opponents say he has favoured to the detriment of the nation.
Discontent has also risen among Chad's population, one of the poorest in Africa, who have been slow to feel the benefits of the country's new oil revenues.
Deby promised to use national oil profits wisely and turn the country into a "construction site".
Increasing the pressure on Deby, the rebel United Front for Democratic Change (FUC), whose fighters carried out the April 13 attack on N'Djamena, said at the weekend they would coordinate military operations with Erdimi's RAFD. Erdimi, speaking by satellite phone, put combined rebel forces at more than 12,000 and said they were present around Guereda, Tissi and Adre in the east.
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