Presidential elections are scheduled to be held in Chad on April 11, 2021. Incumbent Idriss Déby, who has served five consecutive terms since seizing power in the 1990 coup d’état, is running for a sixth. Déby has been described as an authoritarian by several international media sources, and as “strongly entrenched”. During previous elections, he has forbidden the citizens of Chad from making posts online, and while Chad’s total ban on social media use was lifted in 2019, restrictions continue to exist.
According to Amnesty International, pretrial detentions, systematic bans on gatherings, and attempts to prevent the free exchange of information were rampant in Chad in the leadup to the 2021 elections; they called for the release of activists and others arrested for “disturbing public order”. Déby insists that the COVID-19 pandemic and misinformation are more rampant, and that he is simply cracking down on misinformation about the pandemic. He claimed in a speech that, instead of posting “authentic and verified” information, social media users engaged in “disinformation and manipulation, thus sowing doubt, panic and psychosis.” He further expressed the necessity of defending democracy by opposing “hate speech and divisiveness”.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies noted that the presidential election “is expected to be a largely ceremonial affair given the highly limited space for the political opposition to operate”. Columnist Stephen Kafeero struck a similar note and focused on the current president’s role, writing for Quartz Africa: “Chad is a classic example of what elections under authoritarian regimes often look like. There is limited space for competition against the interests of the incumbent Idriss Déby who has a firm grip on all branches of government and other key stakeholders like the media.”
Sources and further reading:
Chad opposition leader quits presidential race after shoot-out
Chad president kicks off campaign for sixth term