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Chad’s transition in jeopardy as deadline looms

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With an electoral process dominated by the interim president and former ruling party, Chad’s transition is in jeopardy. With an electoral process dominated by the interim president and former ruling party, Chad’s transition is in jeopardy.

After an unconstitutional takeover in 2021, Chad’s transition to democracy is entering its final phase, with the adoption of the new constitution last December. In preparation for presidential elections before October 2024, a National Election Management Agency and Constitutional Council have been set up – but how free and fair will these polls be?

Having returned from exile, Succès Masra, leader of the strongest opposition party Les Transformateurs (The Transformers), was appointed prime minister on 1 January. His decision to join the government means the opposition’s ability to criticise the administration will be diminished.

The electoral process is dominated by the transitional president, Mahamat Déby, who was selected by the former ruling party, the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), as its candidate for the presidential elections.

The law on the election agency’s powers, organisation and functioning was adopted by the National Transitional Council on 26 January. It enshrines the agency’s independence and its members’ immutability during their seven-year mandate – two principles aimed at guaranteeing impartiality.

However, the way its members are appointed is problematic. Of the 15 members, eight are chosen by the transitional president, four by the Senate president, and three by the National Transitional Council president. In the absence of a Senate, it’s up to the council president, who is the former MPS secretary-general, to appoint these four members.

The election agency chairman, Ahmed Bartchiret, is a magistrate and former president of the Supreme Court, but also a member of the former ruling party and close to Déby. He chaired the National Dialogue’s ad hoc commission, which recommended delaying the transition for two years. Most other officers and members of the election agency are also from the former MPS.

The Constitutional Council, which will be responsible for adjudicating electoral disputes, is headed by Jean-Bernard Padaré, a former minister, deputy secretary-general and spokesperson for the MPS. Seven out of the council’s nine members are affiliated with the former ruling party or allied parties.

Civil society and the opposition believe that with an electoral body controlled by the transitional president, who will likely contest the election, the dice are loaded against them from the start.

Neither of the opposition political party coalitions – the Consultation Group of Political Actors and the Republican Platform – recognise the National Transitional Council, Supreme Court, Constitutional Council, or election agency. Civil society and opposition parties – including Les Transformateurs, which now heads the government – are not represented in the election agency and Constitutional Council. To ensure total control over the upcoming polls, the MPS-transitional president team has taken the lion’s share of positions.

Government Minister and Secretary-General Ramatou Houtouin described the election agency as ‘a permanent institution, with no political nuances, whose members are formally prohibited from serving as leaders of political parties, thus reinforcing its neutrality.’

But in practice, the agency’s composition contradicts this vision and the country’s constitution. Article 238 says that ‘in carrying out its mission, the National Agency for the Management of Elections shall act with complete independence, impartiality, integrity, transparency and professionalism.’

This is reminiscent of how the national commission responsible for organising the constitutional referendum in 2023 was set up. Despite the Transition Charter guaranteeing this institution’s neutrality, it too was dominated by stakeholders close to the transitional president. Even though they were not strongly contested, the referendum results left many perplexed by both the turnout and the outcome.

Meanwhile, political dialogue between the MPS, government and opposition parties appears to be at a standstill. The Kinshasa Convention, an agreement between the transitional government and Les Transformateurs, was presented as fostering reconciliation but has been criticised by other opposition parties and civil society. They say it’s only binding on the two signatories and is a political agreement that undermines a broader discussion and consensus in Chad.

The election agency and Constitutional Council play a vital role in organising and managing voting and arbitrating any disputes that may arise. Their ability to do so independently and impartially is crucial to their success and credibility – and Chad’s peace and stability.

The current election preparations are far from ideal. Dialogue is essential for Chad to move forward. Masra, an opposition member and current prime minister, could be the perfect link between the presidency and the rest of the political class. And although the appointment of a mediator provides leverage for discussion, time is running out.

Chad’s partners who have supported the transition from the start should offer their services to bring stakeholders together, ease tensions and obtain a minimum consensus around the forthcoming elections. These include the Economic Community of Central African States, the African Union, the United Nations through the fund to support Chad’s political transition, France and the European Union. The ECCAS facilitator remains central to coordinating actions and achieving better results.

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Iran threatens to attack Israel with weapons it has ‘not used before’

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Iran is reportedly getting a terrifying arsenal from Russia, including anti-aircraft launchers and fighter jets and is threatening to fire weapons it has never before used in “a severe, extensive and painful response” to the “slightest action” by Israel.

Abolfazl Amouei, a spokesperson for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Committee, told a local news station Monday that the Islamic Republic “will confront any Israeli aggression and respond to it.”

“We are ready to use weapons that we have not used before,” the official told Al-Mayadeen News, according to the Economic Times.

“We have plans for all scenarios, and we call on the zionists to act rationally.”

Also, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned Israel that if it takes even the “slightest action” it will face “a severe, extensive and painful response.”

“The blind support of some Western countries to the Zionist regime is the cause of tension in the region,” he claimed, according to the Daily Express.

“We will respond in a massive, broad and painful manner to the slightest action targeting Iranian interests.”

The threats come after years of the international community worrying about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

The Islamic Republic has several nuclear research sites, two uranium mines, a research reactor and three uranium enrichment plants.

In November 2023, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran’s uranium stockpile was more than 20 times larger than the limit agreed upon under the Obama-era Iran Nuclear Deal.

By December, the United Nations agency warned that Iran had enriched uranium to up to 60% purity — which is close to weapons-grade, and the agency added that Iran had enough enriched uranium to build three atomic bombs.

The National Union for Democracy in Iran also wrote in a report earlier this month that its stockpile of enriched uranium, coupled with its centrifuge capacity, are enough to make seven nuclear weapons in just one month.

Iran is also getting weapons from Russia, including anti-aircraft launchers and drones.

Russia has vowed to support Iran with air defense technology and advanced fighter jets, as well as technical support for its spy satellites.

Further agreements between the two countries may also include efforts to rebuild Iran’s Air Force — which is currently made up of rebuilt Soviet and US jets from before 1979 — as well as efforts to increase Iran’s supply of spy satellites and help it build more rockets, according to the outlet.

Officials in Tehran are also pushing for Russia’s anti-aircraft launchers which military analysts say are capable of destroying stealth fighter jets operated by the US and Israel.

Iran agreed in 2022 to supply thousands of drones and missiles to Moscow to support its war efforts, and Russia agreed late last year to buy about $2 billion worth of military equipment — including anti-drone defense systems — from Iran.

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Prince Harry Loses Appeal To Overturn Ruling Downgrading His Security

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Prince Harry’s bid to appeal the downgrading of his personal security while visiting Britain has been denied by a court ruling on Monday. The youngest son of King Charles III took legal action after the British government informed him in 2020 that he would no longer receive the same level of publicly-funded protection during his UK visits.

In February, the High Court ruled that the UK government’s decision was lawful. High Court judge Peter Lane emphasized the legality of the “bespoke process” devised for Prince Harry by a committee under the jurisdiction of the interior ministry, stating it was “legally sound.”

Despite previous intentions to seek justice through the Court of Appeal, a judicial spokesperson announced on Monday that Prince Harry had lost his initial bid to appeal the decision.

The prince, also known as the Duke of Sussex, notably relocated to North America with his wife Meghan in 2020, eventually settling in California, and is no longer classified as a working royal.

Prince Harry had expressed security concerns preventing his return visits to Britain during a hearing at London’s High Court in December. He emphasized the importance of keeping his family safe, stating, “The UK is my home. The UK is central to the heritage of my children.”

While Prince Harry’s legal team argued that he was being treated unfairly and that proper risk analysis was not conducted, the government’s lawyers rejected claims of singling him out and emphasized the importance of public interest in decisions regarding taxpayer-funded protection.

The legal battle over Prince Harry’s personal security adds to the various lawsuits he has pursued in Britain in recent years, primarily concerning alleged phone hacking by newspapers. Earlier this month, he settled a longstanding legal claim against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) and is currently pursuing legal action against other media outlets.

The denial of Prince Harry’s appeal underscores the ongoing complexities surrounding his public life and the legal battles he continues to navigate.

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UN chief condemns Iran’s attack on Israel

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By Francesca Hangeior

The United N lations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has condemned the “large-scale attack” launched in Israel by Iran.

Guterres, in a statement, urged maximum restraint by all parties and warned that neither the region nor the world could afford another war.

According to the latest reports, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles from its territory toward Israel, with most intercepted on Saturday.

Several missiles reportedly struck within Israeli territory, one of which damaged an Israeli military facility in the south of the country.

“I call for an immediate cessation of these hostilities,” he urged.

The UN chief said that he was deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation.

“I urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East.

“I have repeatedly stressed that neither the region nor the world can afford another war,’ he said.
Tensions have been ratcheting up in the region since Hamas’ deadly October 7 terror attack and mass hostage taking and Israel’s subsequent full-scale assault on the Gaza Strip, which has left thousands dead and pushed the population to the brink of starvation.

For his part, the President of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis, also expressed deep concern about the unfolding situation in the Middle East, “involving the launch by Iran of drones and missiles against Israel.”

In a separate statement, Francis noted that Iran had explained its action “in the context of article 51 of the UN Charter, following the recent Israeli attack on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus.

“The Iranian response compounds the already tense and delicate peace and security situation in the Middle East,” the Assembly President said.
He strongly called upon all parties to exercise the utmost restraint to avoid further escalation of tension in the region.

“This is a moment that calls for wise and prudent judgement, in which the risks and extended risks are very carefully considered.

“I expect that the Iranian authorities will honour their word that by their action today, the matter can be deemed concluded.”

Francis stressed that dialogue and diplomacy are the only way to resolve differences.

Francis warned: “A vicious cycle of attack and counterattack will lead to nowhere, but inevitably, to more death, suffering and misery.”

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