Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress
Two Chadian exiled rebel leaders returned to the country on Thursday two days before the start of landmark talks aimed at paving the way for elections after 18 months of military rule.
Timan Erdimi and Mahamat Nouri will be key participants at an “inclusive national dialogue” opening in N’Djamena on Saturday.
The brainchild of junta chief General Mahamat Idriss Deby, the forum will gather 1,400 delegates from the military government, civil society, opposition parties, trade unions and rebel groups.
Deby took power in April last year at the age of just 37 after his father, who ruled for 30 years, was killed during a military operation against rebels.
Erdimi, the head of the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), has been living in exile in Qatar for at least a decade.
His armed group attempted to overthrow his uncle, former president Idriss Deby Itno, first in 2008 and again in 2020.
He arrived at N’Djamena International Airport early Thursday, where around 50 relatives and supporters were waiting for him, an AFP journalist saw.
“I am very happy to return home after so many years in exile,” said Erdimi, 67, sporting a small white beard and dressed in a traditional gown and white hat.
Nouri, the leader of the Union for Democracy and Development (UFDD), landed shortly afterwards.
Hundreds gathered to welcome the rebel chief, who was wearing a white robe and turban, the AFP journalist said.
Nouri was defence minister under the ex-president before he defected.
He was detained in France in 2020 and charged with crimes against humanity over recruiting child soldiers in Chad and Sudan. He was released the following year for health reasons.
Deby has hailed the talks from Saturday as a chance for reconciliation in the fractured country, opening the way to “free and democratic” elections within 18 months of the military takeover.
Topics are also to include lasting peace and reforming the state.
The “dialogue” should have started in February but was repeatedly delayed as Chad’s myriad rebel groups, meeting in Qatar, squabbled over whether to attend.
In the end, around 40 groups on August 8 signed up to a deal, entailing a ceasefire and guarantee of safe passage.
The UFR, one of the signatories, is estimated to have several hundred fighters, based in southern Libya and northern Chad.
It first attempted to overthrow the government in 2008, then again in 2020, when the group sent a column of fighters in pick-up trucks from Libya via Sudan.