Saleh Kebzabo said his party had decided “outright” to withdraw from the April vote following a deadly shooting at the home of another candidate.
Chad’s main opposition figure has announced his withdrawal from the country’s next leadership race, accusing veteran President Idriss Deby of using force to intimidate his rivals.
Saleh Kebzabo said his party had decided “outright” not to participate in the April 11 presidential election, according to a statement released on Monday, a day after a fatal shooting at the home of another candidate, Yaya Dillo,
Kebzabo condemned what he called a “military attack” on Dillo’s house in the capital, Ndjamena.
“The climate of insecurity … will certainly eclipse the electoral campaign of the candidates facing [Deby’s] Patriotic Salvation Movement [MPS],” he said.
By withdrawing from the race, Kebzabo said, he refused to “cover a large-scale masquerade”.
Deby has ruled Chad for over 30 years and is running for a sixth term on April 11.
Kebzabo, a former journalist who in the late 1990s was a minister under Deby, has challenged the presidency four times.
He came second in the 2016 election with 12.8% of the vote.
On Sunday, a shooting erupted at Dillo’s home when security forces came to arrest him. Dillo had gone into hiding with “armed individuals” after refusing to obey two arrest warrants, filed last year for allegedly slandering the president’s wife.
The government said two deaths occurred when security forces came under fire from his home and were forced to respond. Five people were injured, including three soldiers, he added.
But in a series of social media posts, Dillo said his home was surrounded and his mother and several relatives were killed.
In his latest messages, he said an armored vehicle had broken down the door and urged the public to “stand up”.
Dillo’s account could not be independently confirmed and authorities did not respond to the AFP news agency’s request. His whereabouts were also unknown, and phone calls went unanswered.
Several armored vehicles, as well as gendarmes and elite members of the presidential guard, were deployed on the roads leading to his home, but there was no visible increase in security in the presidency or at the Ministry of Defense, noted an AFP journalist.
However, mobile phone services were slow and internet access in Ndjamena was also interrupted.
Authorities have banned public protests in recent weeks ahead of elections.
Amnesty International’s global rights watchdog has denounced what it calls “unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions” on the right to peaceful assembly, as well as “arbitrary arrests”.
Dillo is an official rebel leader who fought against Deby in 2006 before joining his government and becoming a minister. More recently, he was Chad’s representative to the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).
He had filed papers to contest the election on Friday.
Deby, a 68-year-old former chief of the armed forces, has ruled Chad since December 1990, when he ousted autocratic leader Hissène Habré. He passed a new constitution in 2018 that restored term limits but could let him stay in power until 2033.
Hundreds of people took to the streets earlier this month to protest his candidacy in the April vote.
During his long reign, Deby has been accused by critics of authoritarianism and nepotism and of failing to tackle the poverty that afflicts many of Chad’s 13 million people.
Despite its oil wealth, the country ranks 187th out of 189 in the UN Human Development Index (HDI).