Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Chad is a centralized republic. In May 2006 citizens reelected President Idriss Deby, leader of the Patriotic Salvation Movement, to a third term in an orderly but seriously flawed election boycotted by the opposition. Deby has ruled the country since taking power in a 1990 coup. Political power remains concentrated in the hands of a northern oligarchy composed of the president's Zaghawa ethnic group and its allies. The executive branch dominates the legislature and judiciary. Fighting between the government and rebels, violent interethnic conflict, banditry, and cross-border raids by Darfur-based militias continue. There are approximately 167,000 internally displaced persons in the east. Approximately 250,000 Sudanese refugees who have fled from violence in Darfur live in camps along the eastern border, and the country also hosts approximately 58,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in the east and the south. In April 2008 a government decree established a Commission of Inquiry to examine disappeared persons and other abuses that occurred from January 28 to February 8 (the period prior, during, and after the 2008 rebel attack on N'djamena). The commission concluded that security forces and rebels committed human rights violations and that civilians were killed, injured, raped, and detained.

The government's human rights record deteriorated in 2008 in comparison with the previous year. Human rights abuses included limitation of citizens' right to change their government; extrajudicial killings; politically motivated disappearances; torture and rape by security forces; security force impunity; life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; incommunicado detention; lengthy pretrial detention; denial of a fair public trial; executive interference in the judiciary; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and correspondence; use of excessive force and other abuses in internal conflict, including killings and use of child soldiers; limits on freedom of speech, press, and assembly, including harassment and detention of journalists; widespread official corruption; obstruction of the work of NGOs; violence and societal discrimination against women, including the widespread practice of female genital mutilation; child abuse and trafficking; ethnic-based discrimination; repression of union activity; forced labor; and exploitative child labor. Rebel groups, ethnic-based militias, Darfur-based militias, and bandits committed numerous human rights abuses. These abuses included killing, abducting, injuring, raping, and displacing civilians; attacks against and destruction of villages; recruitment and use of child soldiers; and attacks against humanitarian workers.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

A key U.S. priority for promoting democracy in the country is to encourage a credible electoral process and political transition in accordance with procedures set forth in the country’s 1996 constitution and subsequent electoral laws, as well as with the an agreement signed in August 2007 by the Government of Chad, the ruling party coalition, and most opposition parties. The August 2007 agreement was backed by the European Union, the African Union, the United States, and the United Nations, and provides a roadmap for electoral reform. The accord calls for communal and legislative elections, originally scheduled for 2005, to be held in 2009. Many observers expect that the elections will be delayed past 2009.

The United States continues to place emphasis on addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in eastern Chad and on reinforcing efforts to help resolve the crisis. In addition, strengthening civil society, good governance, and the media, especially radio broadcasting, is also a focus. Professionalization of security forces is another important component of the U.S. strategy.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States continues to work with bilateral and multilateral partners to support the country’s democratic processes and press the country's leadership, using all available diplomatic tools and assistance resources, to proceed along the path toward elections. The convening power of the U.S. ambassador is used as a powerful force for bringing together political and civil society actors. U.S. officials meet regularly with political opposition members and with high-level officials in an effort to maintain and advance political dialogue. The agreement reached in August 2007 by opposition and ruling party leaders requires a population census and an electoral census to be completed as the basis for voter registration. The United States, along with the European Union, is contributing financially to the census.

Efforts to strengthen civil society and the media, as well as to promote good governance, are areas of U.S. focus. A multiyear regional project funded by the United States places considerable emphasis on improving community governance and widening access to information in less-governed areas of the country. Other U.S. programs are helping women and youth gain access to community radio stations and relevant radio programming. A long-term effort initiated in 1999 has resulted in a civics education program for primary and secondary school students and the printing of nearly 70,000 textbooks in French and Arabic. In order to facilitate the implementation of recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry to examine disappeared persons and other abuses that occurred from January 28 to February 8, 2008, the United States continually urges the government to move forward with its justice commission to investigate the disappearances.

The United States continues to respond to the humanitarian emergency in the eastern part of the country, and to reinforce regional security efforts. The United States is a major donor for humanitarian relief efforts in the region. This includes programs for refugee protection, psychosocial services, and other vital assistance for vulnerable populations in the east. The United States supported the peacekeeping missions of the European Union Force in Chad and the Central African Republic, and continues to support the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), whose mission includes helping to protect vulnerable civilians and facilitating the provision of humanitarian assistance. The U.S. Government provides funding for the peacekeeping operation, contributes military personnel, and has provided financial support for integrated Chadian security detachment. U.S. efforts to encourage a political settlement to the conflict in Darfur include contact with Sudanese rebel leaders in Chad who are parties to the conflict in Darfur. U.S. diplomatic efforts in support of a reduction of tensions between Chad and Sudan and improving security in the border region include promoting the implementation of the March 2008 Dakar Accord between Chad and Sudan by sending high-level U.S. officials to meetings of the accord’s contact group.

The professionalization of security forces is a key component of U.S. strategy for improving the country's human rights record. The country's security force personnel participate in U.S. sponsored trainings. During high-level consultations the U.S. also brings to the attention of the government the need to take concrete measures to discontinue the recruitment and use of child soldiers and combat trafficking in persons, including urging the passage of relevant legislation, identifying and prosecuting violators, and providing assistance to victims.