Chad prolongs state of emergency

Chad extended a state of emergency by a further 15 days on Friday, saying it was needed to maintain state authority almost a month after a rebel attack on the capital, Ndjamena.

The National Assembly authorised President Idriss Déby Itno’s government to extend the exceptional powers, assumed on February 14 to tighten security across the Central African country after a rebel assault in which at least 400 civilians were killed.

The state of emergency gives the government wide search-and-arrest powers and also permits control of media reporting.

International and Chadian human rights groups have accused security forces in the oil-producing former French colony of arbitrarily arresting opponents of Déby on suspicion of aiding the rebels.

Kalzeube Payimi Deubet, the government secretary general who oversees dealings with the National Assembly, said the extension was needed to ensure the calm that had returned to the country since the February 2 to 3 rebel attack was maintained.

”These exceptional measures have allowed the administration to get going again, to restore state authority, security and peace in the country,” he said.

”Everything is fine on the ground, but with this extension the government wants to consolidate this climate.”

He said the move would also allow the government to complete repairs to public buildings damaged in the fighting.

More than four billion CFA francs ($9-million)-worth of government contracts to repair damaged public buildings and equipment — including the Supreme Court and ministers’ houses — were signed under the emergency powers, Deubet said.

Broken furniture still lies abandoned outside the National Assembly building. Some parliamentary offices bear the scars of fires started by looters, which destroyed many of its records.

Ninety-two members of Parliament voted to extend the state of emergency, with five abstentions and none against.

Several opposition members were absent, including former head of state Lol Mahamat Choua, under house arrest after being arrested as rebel forces retreated from Ndjamena on February 3, and Ngarlegy Yorongar, who has been missing since then.

Yorongar’s family say he was snatched by Déby’s soldiers but the government says he was spotted last week at his home.

Another opposition politician, Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, is also missing after being seized from his home on Feb.\ruary 3, according to the anti-Déby coalition that he leads.

Following a request from French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a brief visit to Chad on Wednesday, Déby announced the setting up of an international commission to investigate the fate of Yorongar and Saleh. — Reuters

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