Jean-Jacques Cornish

African Union prepares to red card Chad for unconstitutional change of government

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The young General Mahamat Idriss Deby is learning that being handed the presidency of Chad is more like a poison chalice than winning the lottery of life.

For the time being, the 37 year-old has the backing of former colonial power France.

President Emmanuel Macron went to N’Djamena for Friday’s funeral of Mahamat’s 68-year-old father who died at the hands of rebels a day after winning his sixth term as President of the troubled, largely desert country.

Constitutionally, Chad’s parliamentary speaker should have taken power and moved to elections within 18 months.

But the constitution and parliament have both been scrapped by the military council that put the son at the helm.

The country’s borders have been closed and a night time curfew is being enforced

France’s decision to back this move “for reasons of security following extraordinary events” puts its at odds with the international community.

The African Union, which is bound by its basic law to red card any unconstitutional change in government, has called on Mahamat to restore the country to legality.

Chad’s opposition has called the new power structure a “dynastic coup” and its trade unions are calling for a general strike until the constitution is restored.

There is an uneasy calm in Chad following the move that has played into the hands of the rebel Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT).

Mahamat realises this. He has made frequent appeals over national radio for peace and insisted that he open to dialogue.

The opposition will not take up this offer while he claims to be president.

France’s support comes because of Chad’s pivotal role in the fight against jihadis in the Sahel – that strip of land between the Sahara and the North African coastal states.

Idriss Deby was an inveterate supporter of the group of five Sahel states.

These include Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Mali.

In N’Djamena on Friday, Macron impressed on their leaders present the need to stand united against militant Islam threatening all their countries.

Will they heed the call from their former colonial power, who provides Chad with intelligence and security?

Or will they fall into line with the African Union that is bound to exclude Chad from the continental body’s deliberations until the constitution is restored?

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.