Chad President Idriss Deby dies, son to take over

The Chadian army said on Tuesday that Chad’s President Idriss Deby died while visiting troops on the frontlines of a war against northern rebels, a day after Deby was proclaimed the winner of a presidential election. 

Mahamat Kaka, Deby’s son, was elected interim president by a transitional council of military officers, according to spokesman Azem Bermendao Agouna on state television. 

Deby, 68, was one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents, having risen to power in a coup in 1990. He and his army have been seen as a trustworthy Western ally in a troubled area plagued by jihadists. 

His campaign announced on Monday that he will join troops on the frontlines after rebels based across Libya’s northern border advanced hundreds of kilometers (miles) south toward N’Djamena, the capital. 

Although the exact cause of death is unknown, a European diplomatic source claims he was killed.

“A call to dialogue and peace is launched to all Chadians in the country and abroad in order to continue to build Chad together,” Bermendao said, surrounded by several officers.

“The National Council of Transition reassures the Chadian people that all measures have been taken to guarantee peace, security and the republican order,” he said.

Deby, who was accused of authoritarian rule by his critics, forced through a new constitution in 2018 that would have permitted him to remain in power until 2033 while also restoring term limits. 

He was named “Marshal” last year and said ahead of the election last week, “I know in advance that I will win, as I have done for the last 30 years.” 

He was grappling with growing public dissatisfaction over his handling of Chad’s oil wealth and crackdowns on critics. 

However, according to election results released on Monday, Deby received 79 percent of the vote, giving him a sixth term in office. Several prominent members of the opposition boycotted the election. 

Western countries have seen Deby as an ally in the war against Islamist militant groups, including Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin and groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel. 

His death is a setback for France, which had planned to base its Sahel counter-terrorism operations in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital. 

In February, Chad announced the deployment of 1,200 troops to supplement the 5,100 French troops in the region. The former colonial force, France, has yet to react officially.

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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