Father And Son: The Deby Regime Charts Chad’s Future

Four Star General and head of the Republican Guard in Chad, Mahamat Idriss Déby (L), 37, son of Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno is seen in N’djamena, on April 9, 2021 during the closing rally of the 2021 presidential campaign. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP) (Photo by MARCO LONGARI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

 

General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, whose plans for shaping the future of Chad enter a key phase on Saturday, has faced a mountainous challenge since he took the country’s helm last year.

On April 20, 2021, the army went on television to announce the death in combat of Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s iron-fisted president for the past 30 years.

Mahamat, his son and political heir, looked shy and nervous in his military uniform.

The 37-year-old soldier had already been catapulted by his father to the rank of four-star general, but was a political newbie.

Now he had been proclaimed head of a junta that dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution — a move that would last for 18 months until “free and democratic elections” could be held.

Today, the younger Deby smoothly plays the part of self-assured leader, but one who also follows a trail set down by his father.

Like his forebear, he strikes a martial pose in his appearances at home or abroad. Western leaders look to him for assurances that Chad will remain a sturdy ally in the fight against jihadism in the Sahel.

In his early months in power, Deby was rarely seen out of uniform, his head adorned with the red beret of the elite presidential guard that he commanded under his father.

Already a four-star general who had won plaudits for fighting a rebel offensive in the east of the country in 2009, he pinned on a fifth star in December.

After a while, Deby was increasingly seen in traditional headdress and flowing robes, or a finely-tailored suit with gold-rimmed glasses on his nose — a less aloof civilian image that his father also favoured.

– Paternal template –
Opinions of the younger Deby’s character vary.

Some observers say he is taciturn and secretive while others say he is striving to establish his authority.

But there is also broad agreement that his template is his father.

Mahamat Deby “consolidated his power base by surrounding himself with the old guard”, says Thierry Vircoulon at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) think-tank.

“There is real continuity between father and son. The Deby system is still in place.”

In 1993, the older Deby launched a national conference to set up state institutions after a period of transition.

Today, his son seeks to do something similar with an “inclusive national dialogue” that will be launched on Saturday among 1,400 delegates, including representatives of many armed groups. Its declared goal is to agree a pathway towards elections.

“Mahamat has the same desire as his father, to show a semblance of dialogue with the opposition,” said Kelma Manatouma, a Chadian analyst who also noted that the tactic did not unlock “the expected results” in the past.

To shore up his power, the elder Deby relied on his ethnic group, the Zaghawa, a small minority in Chad, entrusting them with key positions in the army.

Mahamat, through his mother, is half Gorane, which is often a rival or even enemy ethnic group, but he too relies on his father’s clan.

“It is always the same group who are in power, the Zaghawa core,” said Roland Marchal, from the Centre for International Research (Ceri) in Paris.

– More tolerant? –
Some observers point to differences between father and son in how they exercise power.

Unlike Idriss Deby, who forbade any demonstrations, Mahamat Deby “leaves a small space for opposition to be expressed”, said Marchal.

Seeking to push ahead with his national forum, the new strongman arranged a “pre-dialogue” in Qatar with rebel groups that his father had fought for years.

He reached out to rebel leaders — including his own cousin, Timan Erdimi, also an ethnic Zaghawa, who had repeatedly tried to overthrow his late father — inviting them to join the dialogue.

“He is less impulsive than the father, calmer — he listens more than he speaks,” says a close adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Chad’s New Junta Names Transition Government

File photo: The son of the late Chadian president Idriss Deby, general Mahamat Idriss Deby (R), attend the state funeral for the late Chadian president Idriss Deby in N’Djamena on April 23, 2021. Issouf SANOGO / AFP

 

The military junta that took power in Chad last month after the shock death of veteran leader Idriss Deby Itno named a transition government on Sunday, the army spokesman said.

The so-called Transitional Military Council (CMT) had pledged to restore democracy to the poor Sahel country within 18 months after what the opposition condemned as an “institutional coup”.

Deby’s 37-year-old son Mahamat, the country’s new strongman, named a government comprising 40 ministers and deputy ministers, junta spokesman Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a televised statement.

Deby also created a new national reconciliation ministry to be headed by Acheick Ibn Oumar, a former rebel chief who became a diplomatic adviser to the presidency in 2019.

Longtime opposition politician Saleh Kebzabo was not named to the transition government, but he issued a statement saying he “recognised” it.

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Two members of his party were given portfolios.

Another opposition figure, Mahamat Ahmat Alhabo, will be justice minister in the country of around 16 million.

Chad was thrown into turmoil by Deby’s death, announced just the day after he was declared the winner of an April 11 election — giving him a sixth mandate after 30 years at the helm.

Earlier Sunday, the junta announced the lifting of an overnight curfew introduced after Deby’s death.

The army said Deby died from wounds sustained in fighting with rebel forces in the north of the poor Sahel country last month.

In this file photo taken on February 06, 2008, late Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno gives a press conference after a meeting with French Defence Minister Herve Morin (not in photo), in Ndjamena during an official visit to Chad. AF{

 

Tensions are high in the country, with the military saying that six people were killed last week during demonstrations in the capital N’Djamena and the south against the formation of the junta.

A local aid group has put the death toll at nine. More than 650 people were arrested during the protests, which had been banned by the authorities.

The military has said that Deby died during fighting with rebels from the Libya-based Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), who had launched an election day offensive on April 11.

The announcement of Deby’s death aged 68 came only a day after he was proclaimed winner of the presidential election, handing him a sixth term in office after three decades of iron-fisted rule in the former French colony.

The election held no suspense, as his top threats had been sidelined.

– Landslide re-election –
Deby died on April 19 from wounds he suffered fighting the Libya-based rebels, according to the authorities.

A career soldier who seized power in 1990 and exercised it ruthlessly, Deby died on the day that the electoral commission confirmed that he had won a landslide victory, the authorities say.

The rebels have threatened to march on N’Djamena, where a team from the African Union arrived last week to assess ways to accelerate a return to democratic rule.

Chad, with a well-respected fighting force, is central to the West’s fight against jihadists in the Sahel, where myriad Islamist extremist groups operate.

France’s 5,100-strong Barkhane anti-jihadist force is headquartered in N’Djamena.

AFP

President’s Son Leads Chadians Against Islamists In Mali

Around 1,000 troops from Chad led by the president’s son, Gen. Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, advanced towards the mountains of northeast Mali on Thursday to join French search-and-destroy operations hunting Islamist jihadists.

A column of 100 Chadian armored vehicles, jeeps and supply trucks rolled out of Kidal, the Saharan town 1,200 km (750 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako. From Kidal, French and Chadian forces backed by French warplanes are striking against Islamist rebel hideouts in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range straddling the border with Algeria.

President Idriss Deby’s son, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, commanded the Chadian column. He told Reuters its mission was to “fight terrorism, and eradicate it from the region”, a reference to the Al Qaeda-allied fighters in the mountains who are being bombarded almost daily by French aircraft.

More than 2,500 troops from Chad and Niger are assisting 4,000 French soldiers in the second phase of Paris’ four-week-old intervention against Al Qaeda and its allies in Mali. This is supported by Africa, the United States and Europe as a strike against radical jihadists threatening international attacks.

France’s Operation Serval has retaken the main urban areas of Mali’s north, including Timbuktu and Gao, and is now pursuing the retreating jihadists into the remote northeast. Malian troops are moving up behind to secure the recaptured locations.

Malian Defense Minister General Yamoussa Camara told Reuters the Malian army intended to follow the French and Chadians right up to Tessalit close to the Algerian border.

“That is going to take some time. The enemy’s offensive has been broken, they’ve lost a lot of equipment, but there are pockets of resistance scattered across the country,” he said.

This echoed statements by French leaders who say the Islamists have suffered “hundreds” of casualties but warn the Mali campaign is not yet over. France has said it wants to start pulling troops out of its former colony in March and would like to see a U.N. peacekeeping force deployed there by April.

Pro-autonomy Tuareg MNLA fighters, whose revolt last year defeated Mali’s army and seized the north before being hijacked by Islamist radicals, have said they are controlling Kidal and other northeast towns abandoned by the fleeing Islamist rebels.

Tuareg desert nomads, offering local knowledge as guides, have said they will help the French and Chadians hunt down the al Qaeda-allied insurgents in the desert and mountains.

But this has created a potentially sensitive situation as Mali’s government and army insist on restoring Bamako’s sovereignty over every corner of Mali, including the vast and empty desert zone which the Tuaregs claim as their homeland.

“It is out of the question that we would abandon any place to the MNLA,” Defence Minister Camara said.