Friday, June 04, 2004

Rulers Who Listen to Their People

Brian points to an article which indicates that Chad's President Idriss Deby has just achieved that perennial favorite of African "leaders", the amendment of the constitution to permit him yet another term in office - and this with two whole years left to go on his current term.


Parliament on Wednesday approved an amendment of the constitution that could allow President Idriss Deby to seek a third term in office amid an opposition boycott.

However, the two-thirds approval needed was a formality as the governing Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) have a substantial majority in parliament, with 113 out of the 155 seats, officials said.

Tempers flared in the pre-vote debate.

"Just leave the room! You only came to disturb the proceedings," Nassour Guelendksia, the MPS president of the national assembly, told opposition representatives who had gathered in parliament for Wednesday's noon vote.

Human rights activists said that the ruling party did everything it could to exclude the 31 opposition members from the debate.

"The ruling party members did their utmost to prompt the opposition representatives to leave the room. The MPS should not have done that," Dobian Assingar, the President of the Chadian League of Human Rights told IRIN.

The government backed parliamentary commission that prepared the debate documents said that a revision of the constitution was necessary.

"After eight years of existence, the revision of the constitution is inevitable and indispensable to correct its shortcomings," the report said.

The proposed amendment was approved by 123 votes in favour, none against and one abstention. However, for changes to the national consitution to be ratified, a national referendum will have to take place.

The Chadian constitution, adopted in 1996, limits the president to two consecutive five-year terms in office.

Deby's second term in office comes to an end in 2006.

The 17 opposition parties have accused Deby of wanting to install himself in the presidency for life. They called for a national strike and urged people to demonstrate outside the National Assembly building on the day of the vote.

Human rights defenders and trade unions have backed the opposition's call.


The amendments were proposed by the MPS last November. As well as extending the presidential term, also included are proposals that could suppress the upper house, the Senate, and replace it with a social and economic "Council".

President Deby, 52, came to power in a coup d'etat in December 1990.

Under pressure from international donors, he introduced multi-party democracy in 1996.

Campaigning for re-election in 2001, Deby told a French newspaper in an interview: "I will not stand as a candidate in the 2006 presidential election. I will not change the constitution - even if I have a hundred percent majority".

Deby has made no further declaration on the matter since.
President Deby, like his brother in politics Sam Nujoma, is a humble man, who had made abundantly clear to all the world that he harbored no further political ambitions (indeed, it was that very humility that led him to fulfill the unspoken will of the masses by seizing power at gunpoint way back in 1990) but what is a servant to do when the masses beckon him to keep rendering his services? The people have spoken, and poor Mr. Deby must now contemplate the dreadful prospect of staying in office till 2011, and with it, the chore of looking after all that oil revenue ... Oh, the agony!