N'Djamena (AFP) - Plans for a "day of anger" in the Chadian capital failed to materialise Thursday, with just a few dozen protesters marching against austerity watched by a large police presence, a day after the government suspended 10 opposition parties.
Police said 12 protesters were arrested in N'Djamena during small marches against President Idriss Deby Itno, who has ruled Chad for 27 years.
The rallies, which were planned by civil society groups, trade unions and opposition politicians, were banned by the authorities in advance, who cited "security" reasons.
But civil society leader Mahamat Nour Ibedou and about 20 people staged a small demonstration in the city centre, while a separate very small group also protested in the south of the city, chanting anti-Deby slogans.
This "day of anger is a day of joy because people have gone about their business", police spokesman Paul Manga told AFP.
"We arrested 12 people in different parts of the city," he said, adding they would be referred for prosecution without specifying the charges.
Emergency services at N'Djamena's two main hospitals continued despite the calls for a total shutdown by unions, AFP journalists reported.
A nurse at the Mother and Child Hospital in the capital told AFP: "We are dealing with burns, fevers and cases of severe malaria or other children's diseases."
At the National Reference General Hospital, emergency service facilities and pharmacies stayed open, but were quieter than normal.
However, at least four other public health facilities were closed altogether.
On Wednesday, the government suspended 10 opposition parties for two months for "disturbing public order" and "inciting violence" after they backed the protests.
A day earlier, opposition politicians took part in another march that was dispersed by police, causing injuries, according to the opposition.
Trade unions have initiated a number of strikes in the last two weeks over the state of the economy.
A Western ally in combating jihadism in the volatile Sahel region, Chad has endured two years of severe recession worsened by a slump in oil prices.
The impoverished state is imposing cuts in public spending that the finance ministry says are vital to stave off bankruptcy.
But the cuts have increased social tension and anger towards Deby.
Almost half the population of 14 million lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.