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Chad's Political Coalition Opposes Unitary Government Ahead of Constitutional Referendum

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Quadri Adejumo
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Chad's Political Coalition Opposes Unitary Government Ahead of Constitutional Referendum

Chad is currently embroiled in a contentious political debate as it grapples with the structure and future of its governance. The country has embarked on its campaign for a constitutional referendum slated for December 17, 2023, with a political coalition rallying against the adoption of a unitary system of government.

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Political Divide and the Unitary State

The coalition, comprising various political factions and potentially civil society organizations, is steadfast in its 'No' stance against centralizing power. The junta's ruling legitimacy and the continuation of the Itno dynasty's 30-year reign hang in the balance, with the ballot seemingly about maintaining the Itno family's dynasty following three decades of unchallenged authority held by patriarch Idriss Deby Itno.

The pro-junta 'Yes' camp supports a unitary state, while opponents favor a federal model. This divide likely stems from concerns over democratic representation, the distribution of power, and the potential for regional neglect or imbalance. Mass protests erupted in October last year following the extension of the transition period, which were subsequently quelled by security forces.

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Regional Imbalance and Corruption

Chad's population of 18 million is dichotomized between its arid north, home to the Muslim population that has held power for over 40 years, and the more fertile south, primarily inhabited by Christians and animists. This regional divide further complicates the political discourse.

In 2022, Chad ranked as the second-lowest country globally on the UN Human Development Index and was placed 167th out of 180 nations in terms of corruption perception by Transparency International. Such grim statistics underscore the criticality of this political debate and the urgency for democratic reform.

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Referendum and Future Governance

The upcoming constitutional referendum, adopted in June by the transitional parliament, mirrors the consensual structure of the 1996 fundamental law. The government pledges that everyone will be free to campaign, but state resources are being utilized to drum up support for the 'yes' vote. Meanwhile, opponents of the text are championing abstention, and a significant player has yet to reveal its position.

This political scenario in Chad represents a pivotal moment in the nation's political discourse, as it grapples with the structure and future of its governance. The outcome of this referendum could shape the trajectory of Chad's political landscape and its democratic principles for years to come.

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