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In Chad, freed rebel prisoners call for leader’s release | News

In March, Chad’s interim president, Mahamat Idriss Deby, pardoned 380 jailed members of a rebel group accused of killing his father in 2021.

Alhadj Barh embraced his wife for the first time in more than two years as the midday sun shone high above Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. It marked a new beginning for a man who, until earlier that day, was jailed for fighting in rebels accused of killing the president.

In an apparent gesture of peace, Chad’s interim president, Mahamat Idriss Deby, in March pardoned 380 jailed members of the Chadian Front for Change and Concorde (FACT), the rebel group accused of Killed his father, longtime ruler Idriss Deby, in 2021.

Barr was one of a batch of pardoned detainees released around the capital in early April.

Sitting at home next to his wife and four daughters, Barr said he was eager to help promote peace if the government took an inclusive approach.

“We’re not bullies,” he said. “If the situation changes, I will actively contribute to national reconciliation.”

Deby Jr.’s junta has opened peace talks with various rebel groups that have long challenged his father’s regime, but FACT has not participated, insisting that the transitional authorities release its members first.

While hundreds have been pardoned, most of the group’s senior leadership, including leader Muhammad Mahathir Ali, remains in detention.

Another newly released detainee, former maths teacher and FACT member Ouckonga Guelmine Kemnda, said calls for solidarity would ring hollow if they were not released.

“The government says it’s open to dialogue, but the people it has to talk to are condemned,” the 46-year-old said as he sat with his extended family.

“When we want to talk to someone, we have to be open,” he added.

Transitional authorities have not commented on the detainees’ statements or the prospect of continuing peace talks. The government will remain in power at least until elections scheduled for October 2024.

In August 2022, government representatives signed an agreement to start negotiations on a so-called “pre-dialogue” with hundreds of rebels and civil society, with the Qatari government serving as a mediator.

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