Timothe Sidjim left the morgue with reddened eyes and a haggard look. He had just identified the body of his 22-year-old son, Allasem, one of at least 50 people killed in the violence that erupted as people protested against Chad’s government on Thursday.
Hundreds took to the streets of the capital N’Djamena and other cities to demand a quicker transition to democratic rule just weeks after a military junta announced it was extending its time in power by two years.
Police reacted by firing live round on protestors, rights groups, including Amnesty International, said. Around 300 people were wounded, the government said.
Opposition leader Succes Masra reported a higher death toll of 70, with more than 1,000 allegedly wounded and tortured.
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Sidjim went to the morgue on Friday morning after one of Allasem’s friends called to break the news. A bullet was lodged in Allasem’s chest.
“The hospital tried calling all the contacts in his phone in hope of finding his relatives,” Sidjim, 69, said, still recovering from tear gas he inhaled during the protests.
The usually bustling streets of N’Djamena were calm on Friday. Light traffic weaved its way past barricades and charred tires leftover from the demonstrations.
Security forces stood at roundabouts and lined main roads.
On Friday, President Mahamat Idriss Deby visited victims recovering from injuries in hospital.
Sidjim is grieving his loss like many others, “My son was only 22. He had just obtained his high-school diploma this year but unfortunately his dreams were shattered,” he said.
“It is so difficult to bury children in their prime.”
Sporadic protests have taken place in Chad since a military coup in April 2021 in which Mahamat Deby took power after the death of his father, long standing ruler Idriss Deby.
But tensions have risen this month since new resolutions adopted this month pushed back elections to 2024 and allowed Deby to run for president in the eventual vote.
Thursday’s protests appeared to be the bloodiest yet, prompting outcry from human rights groups accusing security forces of massacring civilians and urging investigations into the events.
The government has described the protests as an armed insurrection “to seize power”.