A leading opposition figure in Chad was arrested on Tuesday following violent anti-French protests that prompted threats from the country’s ruling junta, according to authorities and his party.
The Wakit Tamma opposition coalition’s coordinator, Max Loalngar, “was arrested during the May 14 march, which turned violent,” the police reported on Facebook.
“Two vehicles… came to pick him up at his mother’s home and take him somewhere,” Michel Barka, the group’s spokesman, told AFP.
Wakit Tamma was among the organizers of the protests on Saturday, which accused France, Chad’s former colonial ally and strategic ally, of backing the junta.
Hundreds of people took part in a march, and at least two French flags were burned, an AFP journalist saw.
Violence broke out afterward, with seven petrol stations belonging to the French oil major Total attacked and a dozen policemen injured, according to the police.
The following day, the authorities warned of a crackdown on those it said were to blame for the “extremely serious” incident.
Five people were arrested on Monday and placed in custody, charged with instigating “a gathering that disturbed public order and caused bodily harm, arson and destruction of property.”
Loalngar on Monday denied that those detained bore any responsibility for the violence.
The arrest casts a shadow over a national forum that the junta is showcasing as the way to steer Chad back to civilian rule.
The impoverished Sahel state last year lost its 30-year ruler, Idriss Deby Itno, who was killed during an operation against rebels in the north of the country.
His place was taken by his son, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, at the head of a 15-member military junta.
The junta suspended the constitution and the younger Deby was proclaimed interim president pending the return to civlian rule.
The junta has promised to hold “free and democratic elections” within 18 months after staging a nationwide forum on the country’s problems.
However, the “national reconciliation dialogue” — due to have started on May 10 — has been postponed.
Armed factions have failed to reach an agreement on whether to participate in the forum, and opposition political parties have already stated that they will boycott it.
The military takeover in April 2021 was warmly welcomed by Western countries, led by former colonial power France, which views Chad as a key partner in the fight against Islamists in the Sahel.