On 6 February 2021, 2016 Tutu Fellow Succès Masra PhD, sought shelter within the US Embassy security perimeter in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. The President of the National Human Rights Commission negotiated his exit and the US Embassy received assurances from the government of Chad that Succès would not be arrested if he left the embassy grounds and would be allowed to return home unhindered. Succès refused this negotiated settlement for only himself and instead demanded the release of his fellow companions who were arrested and charged during protests. The United States issued a statement emphasizing their commitment to defending democratic values, but asked Succès to leave, none the less.
The US has also called on the government of Chad to respect the rule of law, to respect the right of the people to demonstrate, and to ensure a transparent and fair judicial process for those persons detained following protests demanding social justice and political change.
Protests broke out in February 2021 when current President Idriss Déby announced that he would run for a sixth term. The President suppressed the protests by dispatching his security forces to disperse the crowds. The protests formed what is being called the consensus movement, which is advocating against the re-election of Déby, who has ruled since 1990. The Chad elections are scheduled for 11 April 2021, and if Déby is re-elected for what will be his sixth term, the 2018 Constitution allows him to stay in office until 2033. Security forces arrested hundreds of demonstrators.
Succès is a prominent opposition politician, with a strong youth base in a country whose median age is 16.6 years. He leads “Les Transformateurs” (The Transformers Party) and has been at the forefront of the protests, having given up a post at the African Development Bank to join politics in his country in 2018. The qualifying age of the candidates was raised from 35 to 45 and then reduced to 40 and this has disqualified Masra from the race. He continues to build his support base and drive his change agenda.
The Tutu Fellows, in solidarity with Masra, issued a statement on 5 March. It expressed deep concern and called on the government to release those detained and protect their right to peaceful assembly. The full statement can be downloaded.