At least two people were killed Tuesday during demonstrations against Chad’s new junta headed by the son of veteran ruler Idriss Deby Itno following his shock battlefield death.
The protesters defied a ban and rallied in the capital N’Djamena and in the south of the semi-desert country where civilian rule was suspended following Deby’s death.
Police were deployed in N’Djamena to break up the planned demonstrations against the so-called Transitional Military Council called by the opposition and civil society groups.
Deby’s 37-year-old son Mahamat now leads the council, and has pledged to hold elections in 18 months.
But the opposition called the TMC an “illegal and illegitimate organ endorsed by France which thinks it can impose a new military dictatorship” on its former colony.
Police used tear gas to disperse small groups of demonstrators in the capital, some of whom burned tyres, AFP journalists saw.
A woman died when anti-junta protesters attacked a bus in N’Djamena’s Dembe district, a prosecutor told AFP.
“Some passengers fled but a woman remained and was killed by the protesters,” N’Djamena prosecutor Youssouf Tom told AFP.
Separately, a man died in protests in the southern city of Mondou, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of the capital.
“We do not yet have the exact circumstances of the death, he is a young man of 21,” Mondou prosecutor Ali Kolla Brahim told AFP.
But a high-ranking state media official, Ahmat Malloum, told AFP by telephone from Moundou that police fired live ammunition on a student who had thrown a stone at a police car.
“The student died instantly,” Malloum said.
A leading rights group called on its activists for “peace and justice” to turn out massively on Tuesday.
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned “with the greatest firmness the repression of demonstrations and the violence that took place this morning in N’Djamena.”
The French leader was speaking during a visit to Paris of DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, currently head of the African Union.
France has been a key ally in Chad’s battle against a jihadist revolt that has swept across the Sahel, though Macron has said he intends to eventually reduce the 5,100-strong Barkhane force Paris has deployed in the region for nearly a decade.
The TMC had banned protests planned for Tuesday, saying they were “likely to disturb public order”.
– ‘Fed up’ –
“We are fed up, fed up, fed up with the monarchical dynasty in Chad,” one protester, Sarah, told AFP, referring to the Deby family rule.
Behind her, a crowd ran in the streets shouting “police, police”, as security forces approached in a vehicle.
“The military has unveiled its colour: govern in blood. The security forces fired live bullets on youths to break up a peaceful march,” tweeted Saleh Kebzabo, a veteran opposition figure.
“The Chadians have risen, we will no longer back down,” added Succes Masra, another prominent anti-regime figure.
Deby died this month after he was injured on the frontlines in the country’s north, where the army has been fighting Libya-based rebels.
The Front for Change and Concord in Chad rebels have said they are prepared to observe a ceasefire, but Chad’s military says they remain at war.
On Monday, the military junta appointed Albert Pahimi Padacke as transitional prime minister, who called for a nationwide effort to speed the return to civilian rule.
The elder Deby came to power in 1990 at the head of a rebel force that rolled in from neighbouring Sudan.
He was buried last Friday in a state funeral attended by Macron.