Hope and disillusionment among Chad’s first-time votersSun, 05 May 2024 05:41:24 GMT

In Chad, one of the world’s poorest and youngest countries, a new generation of first-time voters will elect a president on Monday with a mixture of hope, worry and disillusionment.According to United Nations figures, people aged between 10 and 24 make up one third of inhabitants in the central African country, which has been ruled with an iron fist for 33 years by the Deby dynasty.Idriss Amidou donned a baseball cap and t-shirt bearing the slogan “Let’s march with Mahamat” to pound the streets of the capital N’Djamena in support of Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno.Deby was made head of state by a military junta after the death of his father, Idriss Deby Itno. This is his first election.Amidou, who until now had no interest in politics, has decided to vote for the first time and is trying to convince his friends to elect Deby.The 26-year-old literature student wants more investment in universities. “(Deby) is the only candidate who offers any hope,” he said. Deby took over after his father died in a gunbattle with rebels in 2021, after three decades in power.Far from being troubled by what the opposition complains is the continuation of the Deby dynasty, Amidou said the ruling family “knows how to run the country”.Deby is the “harmony candidate who will advance the country”, said Mahamat Ibrahim, an 18-year-old standing outside one of N’Djamena’s many campaign offices for the 40-year-old army general.Having just reached voting age, Ibrahim proudly helped to festoon the capital with posters bearing the candidate’s initials, MIDI.- ‘Changing the country’ – By contrast, Eric Bendiguim, a 25-year-old law student at N’Djamena University, wants the dynasty out when he also votes for the first.”MIDI has already failed,” he said.”We don’t have roads. We don’t have electricity. We don’t have good schools. We don’t have enough to eat. It’s pathetic.” Bendiguim is a fervent supporter of The Transformers, the party of Succes Masra, 40, and has accompanied Deby’s election opponent to rallies across the country that have attracted large crowds. In his mind, Masra — an opponent of Deby who allied with the military ruler and became his prime minister five months ago — is not the traitor or junta stooge the opposition says he has become.Masra, he said, was “the only genuine opponent” among the 10 candidates standing in the election and will “change the country”.Nnguemadje Makobaye, 20, who is studying to be a French teacher, agreed.”We trusted opponents in the past and at the last minute they betrayed us. This time, I have hope in Succes Masra,” Makobaye said. But he also has concerns.”This regime really wants to stay in power, even if Masra wins democratically.”They’ll be livid and will find other means to get their way,” he predicted.  – ‘Not convinced’ – Christelle Denerambaye, 20, said all the candidates left her “unmotivated”. “If I don’t trust them, it’s because I haven’t seen anything concrete,” she said. “They say politics is the art of lying. They spout pretty words. They know how to talk to young people. “But I’m not convinced by words. I want action.”Standing in a tent out of the blazing sun, 22-year-old rapper Michael Ramadane said he was not sure to vote on Monday.   “Our parents lived through terrible things in this country.”At every election they promise change but it’s always the same old story, the same lies,” he said. He recently vented his frustration and his fears for Chad’s future in a song called “The country’s going to pot”.  Now he watches anxiously as his relatives stockpilie food in case the election leads to violence.”Everything could get turned upside down at the last minute,” he warned.”Everything’s possible in this country.”