March 21, 2022

Menendez Calls for Greater U.S. Support for Transition to Civilian Rule and Democracy in Chad

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is calling on the Biden Administration to recalibrate U.S.-Chad policy to better balance the African nation’s defense needs with that of diplomacy and development, including a greater role in supporting Chad’s transition to civilian rule. In a new letter to Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs Molly Phee, Chairman Menendez specifically called for the Administration to publicly lay out its expectations for the leadership in Chad to adhere to the transitional roadmap through elections as outlined by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in May 2021.

“The Administration’s failure to call Chad’s 2021 unconstitutional change of power a coup significantly undermined our credibility as a voice for democracy and respect for the rule of law in the Sahel, and set a very worrisome precedent for the continent,” Chairman Menendez wrote. “Now is the time for the U.S. to assert its leadership and influence in support of civil society voices in Chad advocating for credible elections and a transition to civilian governance in 2022." 

Chairman Menendez also announced he will continue to object to the provision of security assistance to Chad until the Administration devises a comprehensive plan that includes robust support for good governance and institution strengthening. Historically, U.S. assistance to Chad has focused almost entirely on security assistance, which contributed to the militarization of the previous Chadian regime.

"We must be unwavering in standing with the people in Chad in their aspiration for a civilian-led democratic government that respects civil liberties and human rights," concluded Menendez.

Find a copy of the letter HERE and below.

Assistant Secretary Phee:

In advance of your trip to Chad, I write to encourage you to lead Administration efforts to develop a holistic policy approach to Chad that appropriately balances defense, diplomacy and development, including a greater role in supporting Chad’s transitional process. The Administration’s failure to call Chad’s 2021 unconstitutional change of power a coup significantly undermined our credibility as a voice for democracy and respect for the rule of law in the Sahel, and set a very worrisome precedent for the continent. The United States, however, can and should play a lead role in encouraging Chadians to adhere to the transitional roadmap to civilian rule through elections as outlined by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in May 2021.

After decades of the authoritarian rule of Idriss Deby and Hissene Habre, Chad has a chance to chart a path toward democracy. I am greatly concerned, however, that Idriss Deby’s son, the General Mahamat Deby, who took power by unconstitutional means and installed himself as the leader of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) in contravention of the Chadian constitution, is trying to extend the transitional period and has yet to acknowledge that he and other members of the TMC cannot compete in the elections they are responsible for organizing. Deby’s failure to adhere to this principle, which has guided previous transitions elsewhere in Africa, would severely damage efforts to transition to democracy and civilian rule not only in Chad but also in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Sudan. We must continue to insist that he do so, and marshal the support of other likeminded partners to join us in this effort. 

Our security assistance to Chad over the years has far outpaced the development assistance we have provided to the Chadian people, including in the area of democracy and governance. This imbalance is deeply problematic and has contributed to the militarization of the previous Chadian regime.  Yet despite this historic imbalance as well as last year’s coup, the Administration has continued to pursue a security assistance relationship.  This approach fails to consider the shortcomings of the past, and does not position us to take advantage of the window of opportunity to change Chad’s trajectory moving forward.  In the absence of a comprehensive plan for Chad that includes robust support for good governance and institution strengthening, I will continue to object if notified of the intent to provide further security assistance. With this in mind, I urge you to ensure that the Administration develops a strategy that prioritizes democracy and governance, including support for meaningful civil society engagement in a legitimate, inclusive National Dialogue process. It is also critical for the Administration to publicly state its expectation that General Deby and others in the junta respect the principle that bars transitional leaders from running for office,  and that it fully support the African Union roadmap and the core principles it outlined, to include deadlines for an end to the transitional period.

A stable, democratic, and peaceful Chad is essential for the future development of both the Sahel and Central Africa.  Now is the time for the U.S. to assert its leadership and influence in support of civil society voices in Chad advocating for credible elections and a transition to civilian governance in 2022.  We must be unwavering in standing with the people in Chad in their aspiration for a civilian-led democratic government that respects civil liberties and human rights.  

Sincerely,

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Press Contact

Juan Pachon