The “good boy” who died for political change in Chad

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A printed sheet of paper bearing a photo of Adoussouma hung on the crumbling wall of the Komeissou family home in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, marking his death on Tuesday during protests against the new military junta.

The young man’s broad smile in the photo was the only cheerful face seen around the big house on Thursday, where around 40 relatives and friends came to cry with the family.

Adoussouma, 27, decided with friends to go out on Tuesday morning and demonstrate “for change” in this great impoverished nation in Central Africa, his uncle Joslin said.

He had planned to travel only a few tens of meters, to the main paved road that borders his working-class neighborhood of Walia, a hotbed of protest in the south of N’Djamena.

But a bullet pierced both Adoussouma’s legs, and he died in hospital hours later.

A tall man of six feet, Joslin cried as he described the circumstances of the death to the person in charge of the morgue at the municipal registry.

A few minutes later, he told AFP he did not understand why his nephew had been shot.

“Dynastic succession”

Adoussouma was among at least six protesters who died during protests demanded by the opposition and civil society, many of which are banned by the regime and suppressed by security forces.

The organizers wanted to denounce the “dynastic succession” of Mahamat Idriss Deby to power on April 20 after the sudden death of his father, Idriss Deby Itno, fatally injured while fighting the rebels.

In power for three decades, news of Deby’s death came just after news of his victory for a sixth presidential term was announced.

A junta called the Transitional Military Council (CMT) was quickly formed, chaired by Mahamat Idriss Deby and made up of generals close to his late father.

By taking the title of president, the young Deby dissolved the National Assembly and pledged to organize “free and democratic” elections in 18 months.

Opposition and civil society groups denounced an “institutional coup” as well as attacks on supporters of the new regime throughout the region and beyond, notably in France.

Paris has long been concerned about the stability of this pivotal nation between Libya, the Sahel and central Africa, considered a bulwark in the fight against jihadists in the region.

But Tuesday’s protests were cut short.

After just a few hours, the few groups of young people who marched were dispersed by the police in their ubiquitous pick-ups.

The men in uniform, most of them turbaned or wearing balaclavas, fired tear gas and live ammunition.

“It should have been useful”

Dozens of people were injured and admitted to city hospitals. Authorities said six people were killed in N’Djamena and the south of the country, while local non-governmental organizations said around ten people were killed.

More than 650 others have been arrested by security forces, although civil society groups say many have since been released.

The UN on Friday condemned “a seemingly disproportionate use of force, including live ammunition” against protesters.

A few days later, dressed in a black scarf, Adoussouma’s mother, Yvonne Ponga, was crying for her son.

“He was my first son, he was the one who was supposed to help me,” she breathed, fighting back tears.

“I did nothing, I have already suffered a lot,” Ponga repeated, remembering how Adoussouma’s father had abandoned her when he discovered that she was pregnant.

“I don’t want to live anymore,” she said.

Balo Lama Komeissou, 69, head of the family added:

He was a good boy, he should have been useful to the family, he should have been useful to Chad, and suddenly he was gone. It’s a shock.

“The government ignores its people and does not know the poverty in which we live,” he said. “Even the students are unemployed.”

In one of the poorest countries in the world, enlistment in the army or artisanal gold mining in the Sahara are the main ways out of the bread line.

Among young people, a vision “fed up” has become a “danger”, believes Remadji Hoinathy, researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in N’Djamena.

“Looking at the current situation, people born in the early 1990s think there is not much to lose,” Hoinathy said.

Adoussouma was one of those disillusioned and poorly educated young people. At 27, he had just finished high school.

“He wanted Chad to change, for everyone here to prosper (without) inequalities and nepotism,” Joslin said.

He still hopes that his nephew “will be a martyr” and that “the bloodshed is not for nothing”.

ah / dyg / amt / nb / tgb


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