DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The head of Chad’s military government met Saturday with Qatar’s ruling emir after months of talks between Chadian forces and rebel factions, hosted by the Arab country.
Chad’s Gen. Mahamat Idriss Deby spoke with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Footage from the Qatari royal court, or diwan, showed Sheikh Tamim with Qatar’s foreign minister, while a Chadian delegation accompanied Deby.
A later statement on the state-run Qatar News Agency quoted Sheikh Tamim as backing a “comprehensive national reconciliation in Chad,” saying the ongoing negotiations between the military and the rebels represented the first step toward that.
Sheikh Tamim also reportedly wished Deby luck in an upcoming national dialogue planned in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena on Aug. 20. The talks had earlier been set for May.
Talks between the rebel factions and the military began in March in Doha, the Qatari capital. Deby’s visit comes as diplomats hope the military government and the rebel groups will sign an agreement in Doha ahead of the Aug. 20 talks.
But it remains unclear whether the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, the main rebel group in the country, will sign a deal. That shadowy group, known by the French acronym FACT, is blamed for the 2021 killing of Chad’s longtime President Idriss Deby Itno, who had ruled the country since 1990.
Mahamat Idriss Deby is the 38-year-old son of the slain president who leads Chad’s Transitional Military Council.
Other rebel groups involved in the Qatar talks included the Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad, the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development and others. They have called for Deby to declare he would not run in any coming elections, though the military junta has insisted that can only be decided in the national dialogue talks.
A planned 18-month transitional period in Chad is to end in the coming months, putting renewed pressure on the sides to reach an agreement. Already, Chad had grown frustrated by the 30 years of rule by Deby’s father, leading to years of rebel uprisings in the former French colony that borders Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan.
In July, Qatar’s satellite news network Al Jazeera reported that over 20 rebel groups had withdrawn from the Doha talks. They had accused the military government of “harassments, intimidation, threats and disinformation” amid the negotiations.