Nairobi, Kenya - Exiled Chadian rebel leader Timan Erdimi has returned to the country after a decade in exile in Qatar for talks aiming to pave the way for democratic elections. But boycotts by rebel and opposition groups remain major hurdles.
Erdimi, now 67, returned Thursday, ahead of Saturday's anticipated landmark talk in N'Djamena, Chad's capital. Erdimi, who heads the Union of Resistance Forces - widely known as UFR - is accused of leading an armed group that attempted to twice overthrow the Chadian government, in 2008 and 2019.
Comprising at least 40 rebel groups, Erdimi's UFR signed a peace agreement on August 8 in Doha for talks that would pave the way for elections after 18 months of military rule in Chad.
But two of the biggest rebel groups are boycotting the negotiations forum. Agence France-Presse has reported that the two groups - Front for Change and Concord in Chad - triggered the 2021 offensive in northeastern Chad that killed longtime leader Idriss Deby Itno. The groups claim the forum is politically biased.
The upcoming talks also are expected to bring together 1,400 delegates from the military government, civil society opposition parties, and trade unions.
According to General Mahamat Idriss Deby, president of Chad's transitional military council, the talks provide a chance for reconciliation in the fractured country.
The junta's 18-month window for transition to democracy expires in October - a deadline that France, the African Union and other stakeholders have urged the president to uphold.