The sudden death of President Idriss Deby of Chad is as shocking as it is devastating. His passage is a great loss to Chad and Africa, coming barely a month after the death of Tanzanian President, John Magufuli. Deby, 68, died of injuries sustained on the battlefield in the north of the capital, N’Djamena. This followed clashes with Mahamat Mahdi Ali-led rebels called “Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad” (FACT), meaning the Front for Change and Concord in Chad. Sadly, the death came a day after provisional results of the presidential election held on April 11, projected that he would win another sixth term in office.
Many world leaders have expressed shock over his exit. The Head of African Union and former Chadian Prime Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat; President Emmanuel Macron of France; United Nations’ General Assembly President, Volkan Bozkir; Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel; President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger; President Macky Sall of Senegal and many others have expressed sadness over the death of Deby and praised his contributions to the stability in the Sahel.
As President Muhammadu Buhari has also noted, Deby’s death will create a big vacuum in the efforts to jointly confront terrorists in the region. According to Buhari, Deby had played a pivotal role in the regional joint collaboration in the military campaign against Boko Haram.
In 2015, Deby sent his troops into Nigeria to help Nigeria’s military to stop Boko Haram insurgents causing havoc in the north-eastern part of the country. Last year, he led his troops to the North of Nigeria where they routed the Boko Haram insurgents. With the demise of Deby, the task of combating Boko Haram will be more arduous for the Nigerian military. Of the four countries that make up the Multi-National Joint Task Force, which monitor the Lake Chad region, only Nigeria and Chad are active.
Deby, also known as ‘The Great Survivor’ or ‘General Kaka,’ had ruled Chad for 30 years, having come to power through an armed uprising by the Movement Patriotique du Salut, which he led against the then President Hissène Habré in December 1990. He was one of the longest serving presidents in Africa. His stay in power has been controversial. And as a good military strategist, he fought and defeated rebel attacks in 2006, 2008 and 2019 through the support of the French government.
A day before his death on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, he won election for another term in office. From the first elections in 1996 to the last one in April, Deby and his ruling party, Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), had emerged victorious. If the events following the death of Deby are anything to go by, the future of democracy in the country looks bleak. Deby had brooked no opposition. He also squandered billions of dollars worth of the country’s oil resources and failed to use it to effect some real development. Chad happens to be among the poorest countries, ranking 187 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index. Those aggrieved by his legacies are many. Chadian military is said to be dominated by Deby’s Zaghawa clan which is only about four per cent of the population. Some frightened citizens of Chad, a country of 15 million people, have reportedly fled to neighbouring Cameroon.
Chadian military, led by Deby’s 37-year-old four-star General, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, has taken over power and will rule for 18 months after which a democratic election will be held. The military council has shut the country’s borders and dissolved the government and the parliament against the constitution of the country. Though Chad operated a multi-party system, the self-proclaimed military regime of Mahamat has suspended the constitution. By the stipulation of the constitution, the Speaker of Parliament should have taken over power following the death of the President until elections are held within 90 days.
Opposition parties have kicked against Mahamat’s imposition, describing it as an ‘Institutional coup.’ Chadian rebels have promised to step up action until they get rid of Deby’s footprints. We foresee an escalation of the security situation in Chad and warn against military rule in the country. It has not only gone out of fashion in the civilised world, but also against the stand of African Union.
Therefore, we call for a return to democracy within the shortest possible time in Chad. It is hoped that the warring parties will give peace a chance to reign in the troubled country. It is also imperative that France should help to stabilise Chad, which has been its important and strategic ally.