At least two people were killed and 27 wounded in street clashes in Chad on Tuesday between protesters demanding a return to civilian rule and security forces, prompting key ally France to condemn the crackdown.
Tensions have been high in Chad since the sudden death last week of President Idriss Deby, who had ruled the impoverished desert country for three decades. He was killed on April 19 as he visited troops fighting rebels.
A military council headed by his son took control of the country after his death, but is facing resistance from some Chadians who crave change after Deby’s autocratic rule. Some opposition lawmakers describe what has happened as a coup.
Defying a ban on protests imposed by the military during a period of national mourning for Deby, demonstrators took to the streets of the capital N’Djamena and other urban centres to demand a transition to civilian rule.
A health official at a N’Djamena hospital, who requested anonymity, said one protester in his 20s had died and 27 others had been brought in injured. The cause of the young man’s death was not known.
Witnesses also reported the death of another protester in Moundou, Chad’s second largest city. Social media users said the man had been shot, but that was not confirmed.
“We do not want our country to become a monarchy,” said 34-year-old protester Mbaidiguim Marabel. “The military must return to the barracks to make way for a civilian transition.”
Reuters reporters in N’Djamena saw hundreds of protesters being dispersed by security forces using tear gas. Posts on social media said live ammunition had been used in certain places, but Reuters could not independently verify that.
Protesters burned tyres in several neighborhoods, and a Reuters witness said firefighters struggled to contain a blaze that was large enough to be seen from far away.
A spokesman for the authorities said security forces were attempting to contain the protesters while limiting material damage.
France, which has a military presence in Chad and was a long-term backer of Deby who it considered an important ally in the struggle against Islamist terrorist in the Sahel region of Africa, condemned the use of force against demonstrators.