News Flash

Chad: African country with western interests and civil unrest

TBL web desk

Chad is a landlocked country in north-central Africa, bordered by Libya to north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon to the south-west, Nigeria to the southwest and Niger to the west. Chad is a desert nation which has endured successive rebellions since independence from France in 1960.

On April 11, the same day as the presidential election, fighters of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) rebel group crossed from Libya over into northern Chad. On that day, veteran Chadian President Idriss Deby sought a sixth term in a vote boycotted by main opposition parties.

While his supporters celebrating his victory announcement by firing gunshots in air of the Chad’s capital, Mr. Deby was dying in a fight with rebels trying to overthrow his government. Deby himself took power spearheading a 1990 rebellion that overthrew authoritarian leader Hissene Habre, and later faced the same threat of being overthrown – rebel forces reached the capital in 2006 and 2008, before they were forced to withdraw, and came close again in 2019.

News of the death of Mr. Déby, 68, was broadcast to the nation on state television by a group of military officers, who also announced that the president’s son would succeed him and head a transitional military council that would lead to new elections in 18 months.

Deby’s 37-year-old-son, four-star General Mahamat Idriss Deby, was named transitional leader, despite constitutional protocol saying that the speaker of the parliament should have taken power. The military also suspended the constitution and dissolved the government and parliament.

Mahamat Idriss Deby (right) with his father

On Tuesday night, the F.A.C.T. rebel group announced on Twitter that its forces were on their way to the capital. Kingabe Ogouzeimi de Tapol, a spokesman for the group, said, “Chad is not a monarchy. There cannot be any dynastic devolution of power in our country.”

Despite the repression of his political opponents and many accusations of human rights violations, Deby enjoyed the support of France and the United States.  

France deplored Deby’s passing and said it took note of the creation of an interim military body, urging a quick return to civilian rule and a peaceful transition.

“France lost a brave friend,” President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement. “It expresses its strong attachment to Chad’s stability and territorial integrity.”

The White House offered its “sincere condolences” to the people of Chad on the death of Deby.

“We condemn recent violence and loss of life in Chad,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement.

“We support a peaceful transition of power in accordance with the Chadian constitution.”

Late President Idriss Deby

The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, expressed his condolences to the family, and to the Chadian authorities and people.

“The EU calls on all relevant actors to act responsibly, the immediate priority being the stability of the country and the region,” Borrell said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed his condolences on Twitter, praising Deby’s “bold leadership and … his historic decision to renew Chad’s relationship with Israel”.

There are many rebel groups in Chad and FACT is one among them. Like other Chadian rebels, the FACT’s goal has been to topple Deby. It was founded by rebel Mahamat Mahadi Ali, after the division happened in main rebel body Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD).

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