|07NDJAMENA9||2007-01-04 16:27:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Ndjamena|
1. (SBU) Summary: President Idriss Deby Itno celebrated
the sixteenth anniversary of his successful coup detat
(December 1, 1990) at the annual day of freedom and
democracy, held this year in the southern town of Kyabe,
in the Moyen Chari region of Chad, on December 29.
Representatives from the diplomatic community flew to the
event in a French military transport plane. The President
delivered a short address to a muted crowd, saving his
surprise for the end, when he welcomed the presence of
former rebel leader Mahamat Nour, seated just behind him,
with whom he had signed a peace agreement on December
24. Of particular note was the large military presence at the
event, and the very subdued local crowd. End Summary.
2. (U) Each year President Deby Itno selects a different
town/region in Chad to host the festivities marking his
ascension to power in 1990. For the 16th day of freedom
and democracy, Deby chose the remote southern town of
Kyabe, some 100 kilometers east of Sarh, near the CAR
border. The planning for the festivities is a year-long
process, as the government puts together and begins
infrastructure projects in the chosen town/region. For
Kyabe, this included the construction of 27 small villas
sitting along the main road into town.
3. (U) The event was billed as a celebration of President
Debys accomplishments. As in previous years, the
President invited virtually every diplomatic mission to
participate, and invitees from the diplomatic corps were
flown to the event in a French military transport plane.
Other official invitees were flown to Kyabe in a jet
operated by the national Chadian airline, Toumai, while
still others traveled the 700 kilometers by road. The
official invitees, including diplomats, ministers, political
party members, regional governors, and high-ranking
members of the Chadian military, numbered close to 500.
Although difficult to estimate, the military presence was
significant, perhaps as many as 800 soldiers. Several
diplomatic invitees commented to the PAO that they
observed the military presence to be far greater than in
previous years, with many more weapons, including some
tanks and other armored vehicles, openly displayed.
Between 500 and 1000 locals attended the speech and
4. (U) In their introductory speeches, the head of the
organizing committee and the governor of the Moyen Chari
region both showered praise on the President, thanking him
for all he had accomplished in the region and for the nation.
Both also mentioned the efforts of the regime in Khartoum
to destabilize Chad. The president took the podium and
delivered a ten-minute address. His main focus was on
national social welfare projects: universal health care,
universal free education, tax-free building materials for
infrastructure projects; and local development efforts: the
villas (27 built, 30 more promised), bridges in Moundou
and Kyabe, and a new regional airport. The President
turned his attention to the East, accusing Sudan of
continuing to support the mercenaries that seek to
destabilize our country. He then assured his audience that
no mercenaries remain today on Chadian soil. Joining
President Deby Itno on the podium was rebel leader
Mahamat Nour, with whom the President had recently
signed a peace agreement. The President acknowledged
Nours presence, thanking him for his decision to work for
peace, and encouraging other rebel leaders still active in
Eastern Chad and Sudan to follow Nours example.
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5. (SBU) Comment. PAO attended both this years and
last years events, and some of the contrasts were striking.
Last year in Fada, deep in the heart of his ancestral
Zaghawa homeland and with five months left before
elections, the President was both visibly more at home and
in campaign mode. His speech in Fada lasted nearly an
hour, and elicited loud rounds of applause and ululations
from the audience, including local residents. After the
speech in Fada the President took a long victory lap atop
his armored Hummer, followed by a large and colorful
parade organized by local and nomadic peoples attending
the event. This years audience was notably subdued: no
applause at all from the local population, even during the
translation of the speech into the local language, and very
little noise or applause even from the official participants.
Rather than a victory lap, the President jumped into his
vehicle and departed, bringing the event to an abrupt end.
Diplomats were fed lunch, brought to the Presidential
compound for very a very cursory handshake with the
President, and were back on the plane to NDjamena by
14:30. End Comment.