Catholic Archbishop in Chad “outraged” by Violent Crackdown on Protesters, Urges Dialogue

Archbishop Goetbé Edmond Djitangar of Chad's N’Djamena Archdiocese. Credit: ACI Africa

The Archbishop of Chad’s N’Djamena Archdiocese has expressed his anger and indignation over last month’s crackdown on peaceful protesters that reportedly left dozens dead.

On October 20, security forces opened fire on protesters calling for a “quicker transition to democratic rule” in several cities across Chad, including N’Djamena, the capital, killing at least 50 people and injuring dozens of others, Reuters reported.

In a letter addressed to the President of Chad’s Transitional Council, Mahamat Idriss Déby, Archbishop Goetbé Edmond Djitangar says he followed the sad events of October 20 while abroad for health reasons.

“I was shocked by the news and the unbearable images that I received from the country,” Archbishop Djitangar says in his letter issued Wednesday, November 2.

He queries, “Why such a relentless attack on a peaceful demonstration and such murderous violence on unarmed civilians?”


“I was outraged by the answers given by the Prime Minister justifying the ferocious repression of the security forces, without a word of sympathy for the many families bereaved or in distress in the search for their missing members,” the Archbishop says.

He continues, “I have still not understood the causes of this murderous madness, which led Chadian citizens to subject other citizens to inhuman and degrading treatment, including summary executions and deportation to the prisons of the North.”

“How can we explain the fact that relatives are prevented from removing the mortal remains of their victims of the repressions and burying them?” Archbishop Djitangar poses, and further queries, “Why this continual hounding of citizens whose crime is to be in the opposition? Is it a crime to have the Chadian flag at home?”

Chad's image, the Local Ordinary of N’Djamena says, “has been tarnished by the barbarism of this repression, and those of our usual partners who were beginning to show us some sympathy for the floods have found themselves blocked in their generosity.”

In April 2021, President Idriss Déby Itno who had been at the helm of the country since 1990 died after succumbing to injuries reportedly from a battle with the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), a dissident army rebel group in the Northern part of the country.

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Following his death, a transitional council of military officers led by Deby's son, Mahamat, as interim president, started overseeing Chad’s transition period for the next 18 months.

On October 8, Chad’s military leader, Mahamat, was named President of the transition following deliberations of the country’s National Inclusive Dialogue (DNI), RFI reported. He was sworn in on October 10 as President of a two-year transitional period ahead of "democratic" elections, a move that sparked the October 20 protests.

Speaking at a press conference following the unrest, Chad’s Prime Minister, Saleh Kebzabo, said, “The demonstrators had firearms and they are considered rebels. The security forces responded only in self-defense.”

In his November 2 letter, Archbishop Djtangar describes the utterances of Prime Minister Kebzabo as “clumsy”. 

“The clumsy explanation given by the government to justify the conduct of security forces convinced no one,” the 70-year-old Catholic Bishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in February 1992 as Local Ordinary of Chad’s Sarh Diocese says.


He adds, “This conduct resembles the final solution and confirms the desire for democratic non-dialogue already visible in the management and conduct of the DNI.”

The Local Ordinary of N’Djaména Archdiocese who doubles as the President of the Episcopal Conference of Chad (CET) notes that the authorities “have no consideration for us religious leaders.”

“Our speeches and preaching calling the faithful to build peace and live together are continually contradicted by the state authorities in their conduct and management of public affairs,” he Archbishop Djitangar says.

The Chadian Archbishop who has been at the helm of N’Djaména Archdiocese since his installation in October 2016 finds it regrettable that the call for dialogue expressed by faith-based leaders in the landlocked country at the crossroads of North and Central Africa was ignored.

He says, “If the authorities of this country would listen to us and the people more ... If they had accepted a real dialogue for the good of our nation, we would not be where we are today with deaths on our hands or consciences.”

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“Every religion holds the value of human life and its preservation in high esteem. It considers any attack on life as criminal,” he further says, adding, “We have a duty to defend and promote respect for life, the dignity of the human person and social justice under any political regime.”

Religious leaders cannot support an “authoritarian regime which has undermined life and human dignity,” Archbishop Djitangar says, and invites the government of Chad to “have the courage to put an end to the manhunt of which some opponents are victims.”

He goes on to calls for the “release of those who are detained and deported following the 20 October protests.”

He also invites the Chadian government to “re-launch a direct dialogue with the political parties and civil society associations” to re-establish peace in the country.

The Catholic Church leader further calls for the “establishment of a government of technocrats and proceed with the putting in place of institutions for the drafting of the constitution and for the preparation of electoral consultations.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.