Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September 2014, 13:28 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1998 - Chad

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 26 February 1999
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1998 - Chad, 26 February 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa5e30.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Chad is a centralized republic dominated by a strong presidency. President Idriss Deby, leader of the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), has ruled since taking power in a 1990 rebellion. The Sovereign National Conference (CNS) confirmed Deby in 1993 as Chief of State and he was elected President in mid-1996 under a constitution adopted in a referendum earlier that year. According to widespread credible reports, fraud, vote-rigging, and local irregularities marred both the 1996 presidential election, which Deby won, and the 1997 legislative elections in which members of the MPS won 65 of 125 seats in the National Assembly. The Government remained unable to exert effective control over some parts of the country. In May a major rebel group based in the southern region, the Armed Forces for the Federal Republic/Victims of Aggression (FARF/VA), reached a peace agreement with the Government, following the disappearance and presumed death of FARF/VA leader Laokein Barde Frisson. However, a rebellion led by members of the Toubou ethnic group, including former Defense Minister Youssouf Togoimi, broke out in the northwest in October. The judicial system continued to be ineffective, overburdened, and subject to outside interference, including by the executive branch.

The army, gendarmes, police, National and Nomadic Guard (GNNT), and intelligence services are responsible for internal security. Officers from President Deby's Zaghawa ethnic group dominate the Rapid Intervention Force (FIR), and the National Security Agency (ANS), a counterintelligence organization that has acted as an internal political police force. The security forces continued to commit serious human rights abuses.

The economy is mainly based on subsistence agriculture, herding, and fishing. Annual per capita income is estimated at $225. The country has little industry; its chief export is cotton. Among the impediments to economic growth are corruption, numerous state-owned monopolies, and a bloated civil service. Although the country has substantial oil reserves, the Government relies heavily on assistance from external donors and international financial institutions.

The Government's human rights record continued to be characterized by serious problems in many areas. The security forces were responsible for the extrajudicial killing of many civilians during operations in the south of the country. Members of the security forces also tortured, beat, and otherwise abused citizens. Prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Security forces continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention. The Government did not prosecute or punish members of the security forces who committed human rights abuses. The Government also did not prosecute security personnel accused in previous years of killings, rape, torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention. Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. The judiciary remained subject to executive interference and was unable to provide citizens with prompt and trials. Trials were sometimes not fair: the Government denied an opposition party leader access to counsel during a criminal trial. Security forces used illegal searches and wiretaps and monitored the contents of private mail. The Government arbitrarily conscripted young men into the army without informing their families. The Government increasingly restricted freedom of speech and of the press, prosecuting an opposition party leader and journalists on criminal libel charges and convicting journalists of criminal libel for the first time. The Government at times restricted freedom of assembly and association. There were some limits on freedom of movement. The Government limited citizens' right to choose their government. The Government interfered with the operations of human rights groups. Societal discrimination against women remained common; violence against women also is believed to be common. Female genital mutilation (FGM) remained widespread. Ethnic and regional discrimination remained widespread; northerners, and in particular members of President Deby's Zaghawa ethnic minority, continued to dominate key positions in the public sector. Serious armed conflict among ethnic and regional groups continued.

FARF/VA rebels reportedly committed serious abuses, including killings of civilians, before signing a peace accord with the Government in May.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Reports of officially sanctioned extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals by police and gendarmes continued, although they were fewer than in the previous year.

Police and security forces repeatedly used deadly force against unarmed persons who were perceived to support rebel groups in and around the southern towns of Sarh in Moyen-Chari prefecture and Moundou in Western Logone prefecture. In March security forces killed a number of unarmed or disarmed persons while conducting a major counterinsurgency operation, ostensibly directed against the Popular Democratic Front rebel group (see Section 1.b.), in the prefecture of Moyen-Chari. In the same month, security forces expanded their campaigns in eastern and western Logone prefectures against FARF/VA rebels, sympathizers, and highway bandits. Amnesty International reported that security forces summarily executed approximately 100 persons in this campaign. Security forces repeatedly executed unarmed persons, including village chiefs, in reprisal for rebel operations near their villages.

On March 11, in the town of Gore in Western Logone prefecture, security forces shot and killed 15 village chiefs whom they had lured there on the pretext of collecting tax receipts. Security forces also reportedly killed Gore's canton chief Mbainabeye Beye and a 12-year-old child during the same operation.

As in previous years, the Government took no action to prosecute members of the security forces who committed extrajudicial killings. The Government continued to grant amnesty to rebels who made peace with it.

The FARF also is believed to have targeted civilians in response to the government offensive in March. However, reports of such attacks ceased after the FARF/VA signed a peace accord with the Government in May. In August the National Assembly passed a law giving amnesty to FARF/VA members, a number of whom were integrated into the army. The leader of the southern region's FARF/VA rebellion disappeared and reportedly was killed during a skirmish with government troops (see Section 1.b.).

b. Disappearance

As in previous years, there were credible reports of apparent disappearances of persons while in government custody. Such disappearances reportedly occurred in Moyen-Chari and Logone prefectures, mostly in Sarh and Moundou, during the Government's campaigns in those areas in March. Specific information on individual cases was difficult to corroborate in view of the security situation that prevailed in the south of the country and the distances involved.

Laokein Barde Frisson, leader of the southern region's FARF/VA rebellion, apparently disappeared during the first 4 months of the year. On March 22, the Government issued a warrant for his arrest. He was not present at the May 6 signing in Dounia of a peace agreement between the FARF/VA and the Government. In November a privately owned weekly newspaper based in N'Djamena, Le Temps, reported that Barde's lieutenants killed him on April 8. However, there are credible indications that Barde was killed in April in a skirmish with government troops.

The Government continued to fail to provide satisfactory responses to inquiries by human rights organizations about a number of persons who apparently disappeared while in government custody during previous years. For example, Valentin Nedoumdingam, who reportedly was arrested in the south in

1995, then transferred to the prison in Faya Largeau, remained missing without explanation.

In February the Popular Democratic Front (FDP), headed by Dr. Nahor Ngawara Mamouth, kidnaped four French citizens in the Manda Game Park outside Sarh in the southern region. Government security forces quickly rescued the hostages unharmed and killed 11 rebels in the process.

In March the Renewed National Front of Chad rebel group kidnaped six French citizens and two Italian citizens in the northwestern region; all eight were released within 6 days, following negotiations between the rebels and the Government.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution specifically prohibits torture and degrading or humiliating treatment; however, members of the security forces tortured, beat, abused and raped citizens. No one was prosecuted for these abuses.

During the March counterinsurgency campaigns in the south, soldiers, gendarmes and members of the GNNT reportedly tortured dozens of civilians.

The GNNT, which by presidential decree is responsible for combating smuggling, frequently is accused of using excessive force in its operations. Guardsmen have been arrested and charged for abuses, but there have been no known cases of convictions.

In March gendarmes beat and arrested Radio France International correspondent Dieudonne Djonabaye (see Section 2.a.).

In early June, south of Guelengdeng, customs agents beat a foreign missionary for no apparent reason.

Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening. Prisons were characterized by serious overcrowding; poor sanitation; inadequate food, shelter, and medical facilities; and the mixing of adult male, female, and minor prisoners. The law provides that a doctor must visit each prison at least three times a week; however, it was credibly reported that this was not done. When captured FARF members were released from prison, following the FARF's reconciliation with the Government, 15 FARF members were found to have died in prison. Prisoners were almost totally dependent on their families for food and clothing. All prisons were in need of major repairs, and escapes were frequent. However, conditions in some prisons improved in some respects during the year. Prison authorities began to try to separate men, women, and minors. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) funded construction of a separate compound for women at a prison in N'Djamena. During the year, the National Assembly enacted legislation mandating separation of minors from adult prisoners.

The Government permitted the ICRC to visit all prisons, including military prisons, although it insisted on advance notice; the ICRC conducted 37 prison visits during the year. Domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), including human rights groups, may visit a prison only with authorization from a court or from the Director of Prisons. These groups reportedly were not allowed access to military prisons, and their access to civilian prisons depended greatly on the personal inclinations of judges and prison administrators.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution and the Penal Code prohibit arbitrary arrest; however, security forces continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention. Arrest warrants usually must be signed by a judicial official; however, the Government often does not respect these requirements. Numerous instances of arbitrary arrest and detention were alleged by human rights groups during the Government's spring counterinsurgency campaign in the south of the country.

The ANS arrested opposition political figure Facho Balaam without a warrant on October 18 and detained him until October 21 on suspicion of publishing antigovernment political tracts.

The Government did not practice forced exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution mandates an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary was ineffective, underfunded, overburdened, and subject to executive interference. Criminal trials were sometimes unfair. In practice officials and other influential persons often enjoyed immunity from judicial sanction.

The national judicial system operates with courts located in provincial capitals. The N'Djamena Court of Appeals, the country's highest court, is supposed to conduct regular sessions in the provinces, but rarely does so.

Applicable law can be confusing, as courts often tend to blend the formal French-derived legal code with traditional practices. Residents of rural areas often lack effective access to formal judicial institutions. In most civil cases, they rely on traditional courts presided over by village chiefs, canton chiefs, or sultans. Decisions may be appealed to a formal court.

Official inaction and executive interference continue to plague the judiciary. Persons accused of crimes may endure up to several years of incarceration before being charged or tried, especially those arrested for felonies in the provinces, who must await remand to the overcrowded house of detention in N'Djamena. Justice officials' salaries are often low. Although the Government has stated that the strengthening and reform of the judiciary are top priorities, it made little progress in these areas.

The Government has not enforced the Military Code of Justice since the 1979-80 civil war, and courts-martial instituted early in the Deby regime to try security personnel for crimes against civilians no longer operate. The four remaining military magistrates sit as civilian judges on the N'Djamena Court of Appeals.

In January a dozen armed men in plain clothes arrested Yaya Badit Ali, chairman of the opposition National Union for Democracy party (PUND), at his home in N'Djamena. The Government subsequently prosecuted him on charges of criminal libel (see Section 2.a.) for stating that the security forces had detained and tortured him. Yaya Badit was sentenced to 4 years in prison, of which 2 years were suspended, after a trial in which he was denied access to counsel; the Government neither allowed him to hire a lawyer nor appointed a lawyer for him.

There were no reliable figures concerning the number of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the right to privacy of home, correspondence, and other communications, as well as freedom from arbitrary search; however, authorities infringed on those rights. The Penal Code requires authorities to conduct searches of homes only during daylight hours and with a legal warrant. In practice, security forces ignored these provisions and conducted extrajudicial searches at any time.

The Government engages in wiretapping without judicial authority and monitors the contents of private mail through the postal service.

The Government arbitrarily conscripted young men into the army and sometimes did not inform their families. For example in April 50 Zaghawa youths from N'Djamena were forcibly inducted into the army and transferred incommunicado to a training camp in the far north, as punishment for starting a brawl at an airstrip near the town of Bahai, near the border with Sudan. In reaction to their disappearance, their families and friends in N'Djamena attacked public and private schools, where they beat teachers and students and killed a headmaster. Many of the youths reportedly remained in the army at year's end.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the Government increasingly restricted these rights in practice. The Government prosecuted private print journalists for criminal libel and convicted journalists of criminal libel for the first time. The Government imposed both official and informal censorship on the broadcast media

A number of private newspapers are published in the capital; some are vociferously critical of government policies and leaders. The Government did not censor these newspapers formally; however, it increasingly prosecuted their journalists for criminal libel under the provisions of the 1994 press law. In February the editor-in-chief and publication manager of the private newspaper N'Djamena Hebdo, Yaldet Begoto Oulatar and Dieudonne Djonabaye, were convicted of slandering the President and given suspended sentences of 2 years' imprisonment and a symbolic fine of

1 franc. This was the first instance of the conviction of a journalist on charges of criminal libel.

On July 20, the N'Djamena district court convicted two journalists of the N'Djamena-based bimonthly private newspaper L'Observateur on criminal charges of libeling the Speaker of the National Assembly by publishing allegations of financial impropriety made about him during a National Assembly debate by opposition National Assembly member Yorongar Ngarlejy. In December an appeals court sustained the criminal libel conviction of the two journalists, editor-in-chief Sy Koumbo Singa Gali and reporter Polycarpe Togmassi, but reduced their sentences to

1 year's suspended imprisonment and fines of $890

(500,000 CFA francs). Yorongar was sentenced to a 3-year prison term and a fine, despite his claim of parliamentary immunity.

Due to widespread illiteracy and the relatively high cost of newspapers and television, radio is the most important medium of mass communication and information. There is only one privately owned domestic radio station, La Voix du Paysan, which is owned by the Catholic Church and began operating in October 1997. Located in Doba, it broadcasts locally produced programming including news coverage and political commentary in French and indigenous languages for a 140-mile range. The Government's High Council on Communications has set the licensing fee for a commercial radio station at a prohibitively high level: About $9,000 (5 million CFA francs) a year, 10 times the fee for radio stations owned by nonprofit NGO's, like La Voix du Paysan. Consequently, there have been no applications to establish a privately owned commercial radio station. Although several nonprofit NGO's have applied for radio station licenses, only the Catholic Church has received such a license. At year's end, the other applications remained pending, although none had been denied.

On March 29, gendarmes beat and arrested Radio France International correspondent Dieudonne Djonabaye outside the entrance of a French military base. According to the Government, Djonabaye had refused to provide proper identification. He was freed from detention hours later.

The state owns and operates the only domestic television broadcasting station. There have been no requests to establish a private television station, economic preconditions for which may not exist. There is one privately owned cable television service that distributes foreign-sourced programming in French and Arabic, but relatively few citizens can afford to subscribe.

There are no domestic Internet service providers. The Government does not restrict access to the Internet specifically, but the state-owned firm that enjoys a monopoly on access to international telecommunications reportedly sets prices and provides quality that may discourage the establishment of private domestic Internet service providers.

The official media, consisting of a national radio network, a press agency, and N'Djamena's only national television station, are subject to both official and informal censorship. However, at times they are critical of the Government. The official media also give priority to government officials and events, while providing less attention to the opposition. Officials of the state-owned radio network sometimes refused to broadcast opposition statements, even when radio broadcast time was purchased in advance. The Higher Council on Communications (HCC), an independent institution, acts as an arbiter whose main function is to promote free access to the media. It promulgated rules for equal access for official political statements broadcast during the 1996 constitutional referendum and the presidential and legislative elections, but it has no powers of enforcement.

Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but the Government did not always respect this right in practice. The law requires organizers of public demonstrations to notify local authorities 5 days in advance. Authorities sometimes banned demonstrations, despite being notified in advance as required by law. In March the Ministry of Interior prohibited eight human rights organizations from holding marches in N'Djamena to protest the human rights abuses that government security forces had recently committed in Moundou (see Section 1.a.). In response the human rights organizations called on citizens to stay home on certain days in order to protest those human rights abuses

(see Section 4).

The Constitution provides for freedom of association; however, at times the Government restricted this right in practice.

There are more than 60 registered political parties and several hundred NGO's. However, in March the Government suspended the eight human rights organizations that had called on citizens to stay home on certain days in order to protest human rights violations by the security forces (see Section 4).

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution states that the State is secular and also provides for freedom of religion. The Government respected this right in practice. Generally, all faiths worshipped without government constraint. Individuals were free to proselytize.

In early June, customs agents beat a foreign missionary for no apparent reason (see Section 1.c.).

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for these rights; however, there were some limits on them in practice. The Government did not require special permission for travel in areas that it effectively controls. However, elements of the security forces, guerrillas, and bandits continued to maintain many roadblocks throughout the country, extorting money from travelers. The Government did not officially condone such behavior on the part of security force members, but did not discourage it effectively. In addition, armed bandits operated on many roads, assaulting, robbing, and killing travelers; some bandits were identified as active duty soldiers or deserters.

The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations assisting refugees. There were no confirmed reports of the forced expulsion of persons with a valid claim to refugee status, but refugees complained about threats to their safety while waiting for their cases to be adjudicated. The country provides first asylum for refugees and has done so in past years. The Government has granted refugee and asylee status informally to persons and has allowed them to remain for resettlement. During the year, an estimated 17,500 persons fled interethnic violence in western Sudan and resettled as refugees in eastern Chad.

The Government adheres to the principles and purposes of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and Its 1967 Protocol. However, because the National Assembly never ratified these accords, these principles are not incorporated into the law. An official national structure is in place to deal with Chadian and foreign refugee affairs, called the National Committee for Welcoming and Reinsertion. Since August 1993, the Government has registered refugees in N'Djamena and sent their applications for refugee status to the UNHCR Central African headquarters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, or other regional UNHCR offices in Africa. A person whose application is accepted is eligible to enroll in a 6-month care maintenance program that includes a monthly subsistence allowance, medical care, and assistance in finding work. This program is funded by a local NGO.

Chadian refugees are legally free to repatriate, but several thousand remain in the Central African Republic, Niger, Libya, Sudan, Nigeria, and Cameroon.

A group of foreign individuals, mostly Sudanese claiming to be refugees, have charged that foreign officials often monitor refugees applying at the UNHCR branch office in N'Djamena and have stated that this intimidates some refugees.

There were no known instances of persons being returned to a country where they feared persecution.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens' right to change their government peacefully remained limited. The 1996 presidential election, which Deby won, and the 1997 National Assembly elections, in which Deby's MPS party won 65 of a total of 125 seats in the National Assembly, were the first multiparty elections in many years. However, both elections were compromised by widely reported fraud, including vote rigging and other irregularities, committed by election officers, government officials, members of the ruling party, and other parties.

The Government is headed by a Prime Minister who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the National Assembly. Prime Minister Nassour Ouaidou Guelengdouksia has held office since

May 1997.

The Constitution accords immunity to both the President and members of the National Assembly, and includes no provision for recall (removal from office by vote). However, opposition deputy Yorongar's immunity was lifted and he was convicted of libel and sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment and a fine for remarks he made in debate in the Assembly (see Section 2.a.). At year's end, the case was before the Court of Appeals.

The State remains highly centralized. The national Government appoints all subnational government officials, who must also rely on the central Government for most of their revenues and their administrative personnel. During the year, the Government again postponed the country's first elections of local government officials, which the Government has promised repeatedly since 1996.

Women are underrepresented in government and politics. Few women hold senior leadership positions. There is 1 woman of cabinet rank, and 3 female members of the 125-seat National Assembly.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Human rights organizations generally operate with few overt restrictions, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials are often accessible to human rights advocates but generally unresponsive or hostile to their findings. On June 3, President Deby publicly denounced the "imperialism of international human rights associations" which made "serfs out of Third World peoples," and accused such organizations of imposing "prepackaged democracy" instead of "another form of organization of society that would be better adapted to the context, reality, and outlook of our peoples."

On March 26, the Prime Minister suspended eight human rights organizations who had called for "dead city" days (brief symbolic general strikes) in N'Djamena and Moundou to protest and mourn abuses committed by the security forces in their recent counterinsurgency campaigns in the south. Members of the security forces closed and occupied the groups' offices until the Government lifted its suspension of them on April 2

(see Section 2.b.).

In June the National Security Agency dropped the slander charges that it had filed in 1997 against the human rights NGO Tchad Nonviolence.

NGO's have gained recognition under the Deby regime and play a role in political events. Human rights groups have assisted the Government in mediation efforts to reconcile the ancient conflict between herders and farmers over land and water rights. Mediation by human rights groups was instrumental in the negotiation of the May peace accord between the Government and the FARF. Human rights groups are outspoken, if often partisan, in publicizing abuses through reports and press releases, but only occasionally are they able to intervene successfully with authorities. All are dominated by opponents of the Government, which impairs their credibility not only with the Government but also with international organizations.

On June 18, the European Parliament passed a strong resolution criticizing Chad's recent human rights record and demanding the release of jailed opposition deputy Yorongar (see Sections 2.a. and 3). The resolution also called for protection for human rights as one condition for financial assistance for the development of Chad's oil resources.

The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) did not publish a government-sponsored human rights report as it had in 1997.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for equal rights for all citizens, regardless of origin, race, religion, political opinion, or social status. In practice, cultural traditions maintain women in a subordinate status, and the Government favors its ethnic supporters and allies.

Women

While no statistics are available, domestic violence against women is believed to be common. By tradition wives are subject to the authority of their husbands, and have only limited legal recourse against abuse. Family or traditional authorities may act in such cases, but police rarely intervene.

Neither the Government nor advocacy groups redressed discrimination against women. However, a number of women's advocacy groups are working to this end. In practice women do not have equal opportunities for education and training, making it difficult for them to compete for the few formal sector jobs. Property and inheritance laws do not discriminate against women, but traditional practice favors men. Exploitation of women is especially pervasive in rural areas, where women do most of the agricultural labor and are discouraged from formal schooling.

Children

The Government has demonstrated little commitment to children's rights and welfare. It has not committed adequate funding to public education and medical care. Educational opportunities for girls are limited, mainly because of tradition. The Government does not enforce compulsory education. About as many girls as boys are enrolled in primary school, but the percentage of girls enrolled in secondary school is extremely low, primarily because of early marriage. Although the law prohibits sexual relations with a girl under the age of 14, even if married, this law rarely is enforced, and families arrange marriages for girls as young as the age of 11 or 12, sometimes forcibly, for the financial gain of a dowry. Many wives are then obligated to work long hours of physical labor for their husbands in fields or homes.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, is widespread, estimated at about

60 percent of all females, and deeply rooted in tradition. Advocated by women as well as by men, the practice is especially prevalent among ethnic groups in the east and south. It usually is performed prior to puberty as a rite of passage, an occasion that many families use to profit from gifts from their communities.

Opposition to the elimination of FGM is strong. Both the Government and the NGO community have in recent years conducted active and sustained public education campaigns against this practice. An existing law makes FGM theoretically prosecutable as a form of assault. It is designed to protect young women and to punish those responsible for FGM. It was adopted by the transitional legislature in 1995 and was signed into law by the President. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these efforts may be starting to reduce the proportion of girls subjected to FGM.

People with Disabilities

There is no official discrimination against disabled persons. However, the Government operates only a few therapy, education, or employment programs for persons with disabilities, and no laws mandate access to buildings for the disabled. Several local NGO's provide skills training to the deaf and blind.

Religious Minorities

About half the population are Muslims, about one-third are Christians, and the remainder practice traditional indigenous religions or no religion. Most northerners practice Islam; most southerners practice Christianity or a traditional religion. Consequently, tensions and conflicts between government supporters from the politically dominant northern region and rebels from the politically subordinate southern region occasionally have religious overtones.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country's population of about 7 million comprises approximately 200 ethnic groups, many of which are concentrated regionally and speak distinct primary languages. Most ethnic groups are affiliated with one of two regional and cultural traditions: Arab and Saharan/Sahelian zone Muslims in the north, center, and east; and Sudanian zone Christian or animist groups in the south.

Societal discrimination continued to be practiced routinely by members of virtually all ethnic groups, and was evident in patterns of buying and employment, in patterns of de facto segregation in urban neighborhoods, and in the paucity of interethnic marriages, especially across the north-south divide. Although the law prohibits state discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, in practice ethnicity continued to influence government appointments and political alliances. Northerners, and in particular members of President Deby's Zaghawa ethnic group, continued to dominate the public sector and were overrepresented in key institutions of state power, including the military officer corps, elite military units, and the presidential staff. Political parties and groups generally continued to have readily identifiable regional or ethnic bases. In response to longstanding northern dominance of the national government, leading southern political groups such as the FARF advocated a more decentralized or federal form of government.

As has been the case for decades, ethnic and regional tensions continued to underlie armed conflicts that resulted in many serious human rights abuses. During the year, the most conspicuous such conflict was the FARF/VA rebellion in the south.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution recognizes freedom of association and union membership, as well as the right to strike. All employees, except members of the military forces, are free to join or form unions. Unions no longer need authorization from the Government in order to operate legally. However, few workers belong to unions, as most workers are unpaid subsistence cultivators or herders. The main labor organization is the Federation of Chadian Unions (UST). Its former major constituent union, the Teachers' Union of Chad, became independent of it during the year. Neither union has a tie to the Government. A number of minor federations and unions, including the Free Confederation of Chadian Workers, also operate, some with ties to government officials.

The Government generally respected the right to organize and strike. However, the UST has filed legal actions against the Government in the courts for government attempts in 1993, 1995, 1996, and 1997 to suspend it and occupy its headquarters.

Labor unions have the right to affiliate internationally.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution and the Labor Code contain only general provisions for the rights of the Government to set minimum wage standards and to permit unions to bargain collectively. The Labor Code empowers the Government to intervene in the bargaining process under certain circumstances.

The law does not specifically prohibit antiunion discrimination, and there is no formal mechanism for resolving such complaints.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution and the new Labor Code prohibit slavery and forced or compulsory labor by adults and children. There is no evidence of forced labor practices in the formal economy. However, there have been reports of isolated instances of forced labor among rural farming or herding communities, and on military installations in the north.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The Labor Code stipulates that the minimum age for employment in the formal sector is 14 years. The Government does not enforce the law, but in practice children rarely are employed except in agriculture and herding. Many minors served in the armed forces at the beginning of the year, but during the year all were believed to have been mustered out in a demobilization program. The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, but does not enforce this prohibition effectively (see Section 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code requires the Government to set minimum wages. The minimum wage at year's end was $50 (25,480 CFA francs) per month. Most wages, including the minimum wage, were insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Nearly all private sector and state-owned firms paid at least the minimum wage, but the lowest public sector wages remained below the minimum wage.

The State, which owns businesses that dominate many sectors of the small formal economy, remained the largest employer. The Government continued to owe large arrears of pay to civil servants and military personnel. However, the rate at which the Government accumulated payroll arrears decreased, partly because the Government greatly reduced the number of central government employees, especially in the armed forces; this reduced the Government's personnel expenditure obligations and enabled it to receive structural adjustment loans from international financial institutions and other external donors. Nevertheless, wages remained low, and many state employees continued to hold second jobs, raise their own food crops, or rely on family for support.

The law limits most nonagricultural work to 48 hours per week, with overtime paid for supplementary hours. Agricultural work is limited to 2,400 hours per year. All workers are entitled to

24 consecutive hours of rest per week, although in practice these rights rarely are enforced.

The Labor Code mandates occupational health and safety standards and inspectors with the authority to enforce them. These standards rarely are respected in practice, and the UST has alleged before the International Labor Organization that the labor inspection services are not allocated the resources necessary to perform their duties. In principle workers can remove themselves from dangerous working conditions, but in practice they cannot leave without jeopardizing their employment.

Search Refworld

Countries