Chad is a centralized republic with a population of approximately 10 million. In May 2006 citizens reelected President Idriss Deby, leader of the Patriotic Salvation Movement, to a third term in what unofficial observers characterized as an orderly, but seriously flawed election boycotted by the opposition. Deby has ruled the country since taking power in a 1990 coup. In February 2008 Sudanese-supported Chadian rebels attacked N'Djamena, Chad's capital, in an attempt to overthrow the government. The rebels were pushed back to eastern Chad and Sudan. The government's human rights record remains poor. Human rights abuses include: limitation of citizens' right to change their government; extrajudicial killings; politically motivated disappearances; torture and rape by security forces; security force impunity; life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; denial of a fair public trial; executive interference in the judiciary; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and correspondence; use of excessive force and other abuses in internal conflict, including killings and use of child soldiers; limits on freedom of speech, press, and assembly, including harassment and detention of journalists; widespread official corruption; violence and societal discrimination against women, including the widespread practice of female genital mutilation; child abuse and trafficking; ethnic-based discrimination; repression of union activity; forced labor; and exploitive child labor. Rebel groups, ethnic-based militias, Darfur-based militias, and bandits also commit numerous human rights abuses. These abuses include killing, abducting, injuring, and displacing civilians; attacks against and destruction of villages; use of child soldiers; and attacks against humanitarian workers.
The U.S. priorities for promoting democracy and human rights in the country include urging the government to move forward on an electoral reform process to promote free and fair communal and legislative elections in 2009 and presidential elections in 2011; encouraging peaceful resolution of conflicts among all Chadians, strengthening civil society and improving media freedom; responding to the humanitarian emergency resulting from the Darfur crisis and reinforcing regional security in order to resolve that crisis; and reforming the security sector.
An important component of the U.S. strategy for advancing democracy in the country is promoting free and fair elections, including through improved political dialogue. U.S. officials meet with political opposition members to encourage active political dialogue. The need for such dialogue and credible elections is raised at the highest government and ruling party levels. In March 2008 the State Department Bureau of African Affairs deputy assistant secretary traveled to the country and urged President Deby to establish political space for the opposition, respect human rights and media freedom, and move forward on electoral reform. The U.S. ambassador continues to deliver these points to senior officials in the government. U.S. officials also participate in follow-up meetings regarding implementation of the August 13, 2007, agreement between the opposition and government that included delaying communal and legislative elections, originally scheduled for 2005, until 2009. The United States encourages peaceful resolution of conflict among all Chadians, including Chadian rebel factions in an effort to prevent further violence and encourage a more open political system. The U.S. government also supports democratic institution building through activities such as training for judicial clerks, improving parliamentarians' knowledge of budget procedures, and promoting transparency in governance.
Strengthening civil society, advocating for press freedom, and promoting good governance are also priorities. The U.S. ambassador regularly highlights press freedom and other human rights concerns with government and civil society representatives, as well as during public ceremonies. For example, in March 2008 the ambassador met with the minister of communication to advocate for improved press freedom. Efforts are also made to strengthen the ability of civil society groups and governmental institutions to address human rights abuses, including involving such organizations in visits of high-level U.S. officials and working to improve the interaction between the government and human rights groups.
The United States continues to respond to the humanitarian emergency in eastern Chad that has resulted in part from the Darfur crisis, and to reinforce regional security in order to resolve that crisis. The United States is a major donor for humanitarian relief efforts in the region. The United States also supports the peacekeeping missions of the European Union Force in Chad and the Central African Republic (EUFOR), as well as the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), a police training mission whose mandate includes contributing to the protection of civilians. U.S. efforts to encourage a political settlement to the conflict in Darfur include contact with Sudanese rebel leaders in Chad who are parties to the conflict in Darfur. U.S. diplomatic efforts in support of a reduction of tensions between Chad and Sudan and improving security in the border region include promoting the implementation of the March 2008 Dakar Accord between Chad and Sudan.
The professionalization of security forces is a key component of the U.S. strategy for improving the country's human rights record. U.S. government-funded military and counterterrorism training incorporates the topic of human rights.
The United States continues to bring to the attention of the government the need to take concrete measures to combat trafficking in persons, including urging the passage of relevant legislation, identifying and prosecuting violators, and providing assistance to victims.