French President Emmanuel Macron is to attend the funeral of slain Chadian leader Idriss Deby Itno on Friday, the government spokesman said, underlining France’s support for the late strongman.
“The president paid tribute to him at the cabinet meeting and will go to his funeral at the end of the week,” Gabriel Attal told reporters at a press conference after a weekly cabinet meeting.
France had earlier on Tuesday paid tribute to the late president, describing him as a “courageous friend” and “great soldier”, while urging stability and a peaceful transition in the African country after his shock death.
The veteran leader died from wounds sustained while commanding troops fighting a rebel incursion, according to the army, opening a period of uncertainty in Chad, a key strategic ally of the West in the Sahel region of Africa.
“Chad is losing a great soldier and a president who has worked tirelessly for the security of the country and the stability of the region for three decades,” the office of President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement, hailing Deby as a “courageous friend” of France.
The statement also emphasised France’s insistence on the “stability and territorial integrity” of Chad as it faces a push by rebel forces towards its capital, N’Djamena.
Defence Minister Florence Parly praised Deby as an “essential ally in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel” while emphasising that the fight against jihadist insurgents “will not stop”.
Deby had ruled Chad since taking power on the back of a coup in 1990 but and was a key partner in the West’s anti-jihadist campaign in the troubled Sahel region, where France’s 5,100-strong Barkhane force is deployed.
Chad reopened its borders on Wednesday, a day after they were closed following the death in combat of president Idriss Deby Itno, the country’s new transitional military council said.
A curfew — also imposed after the veteran leader’s death on Tuesday — would now start from 8 pm instead of 6 pm, according to a statement signed by the military council’s spokesman Azem Bermandoa Agouna.
A son of Chad’s slain leader Idriss Deby Itno is to take over as President in place of his father.
This is according to a charter released by the presidency on Wednesday.
It said General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, 37, who on Tuesday was named transitional leader as head of a military council following his father’s death, will “occupy the functions of the President of the Republic” and also serve as head of the armed forces.
The charter repeals the preceding constitution and will be implemented as the “basic law of the Republic,” according to its terms.
The younger Deby has also been named “Supreme Head of the Armed Forces,” it said.
Chad’s long-ruling President Idriss Deby Itno was re-elected to a sixth term with 79.32 percent of the votes cast in April 11’s election, according to provisional results from the electoral commission on Monday.
Former prime minister Albert Pahimi Padacke came in second with just 10.32 percent in the presidential vote, while turnout was 64.81 percent, Independent National Electoral Commission chairman Kodi Mahamat Bam said.
The first female president candidate in Chad’s history, Lydie Beassemda, came third with 3.16 percent.
The provisional results still need to be approved by the Supreme Court after it studies potential legal appeals.
After more than three decades in power, the victory of 68-year-old Deby was never in serious doubt after a campaign in which he faced a divided opposition lacking a major rival candidate and demonstrations were banned or dispersed.
Officially nine candidates were running against Deby, but three withdrew and called for the vote to be boycotted — though the Supreme Court kept their names on the ballots.
Deby campaigned on a promise of peace and security in a region that has been rocked by jihadist insurgencies.
Chad’s army said Monday it had killed more than 300 rebels following a heavily armed group’s incursion in the country’s north after election day.
Chad headed into presidential elections Sunday with Idriss Deby Itno, ruler for the last three decades, set to win a sixth term.
A key ally in the West’s anti-jihadist campaign in the Sahel, Deby, 68, is the frontrunner in a six-candidate race without major rivals after a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed.
The incumbent and his wife cast their votes in the morning at a central polling station in the capital N’Djamena, where Deby spoke to journalists.
“I am calling upon all men and women of Chad wherever they are to come out in force and vote to exercise their right and duty to choose the candidate they think is best for them,” he said, brushing aside some opposition parties’ calls to boycott the polls.
“Everything is happening calmly and securely in a peaceful and stable country,” Deby said.
Police and soldiers were out in force across the city as voting booths and ballot boxes arrived progressively, with numerous polling stations visited by AFP failing to open on time.
Queueing to vote in the capital, a 25-year-old saleswoman named Bernadette told AFP she was voting for Deby because “thanks to him I am free to walk wherever I want, day or night, in total security”.
Chad has struggled with poverty and instability since gaining independence from France in 1960.
A former rebel and career soldier who seized power in a coup in 1990, Deby has twice, with French help, thwarted attempts to oust him.
Other candidates include Albert Pahimi Padacke, a former prime minister under Deby, and Felix Nialbe Romadoumngar — officially “leader of the opposition” as his URD party has eight seats in the National Assembly.
Lydie Beassemda, a former agriculture minister, is the first woman to run for president in Chad’s history.
She is pitching her campaign on federalism, in a country where ethnic rivalry is common, and on women’s rights, in a culture where patriarchal domination is entrenched.
But seven other candidates were rejected by the Supreme Court and three withdrew, including longtime opposition politician Saleh Kebzabo, who quit in protest over violence by the security forces.
– Soldiers killed in Lake Chad ambush – Deby has campaigned on a promise of peace and security in a region that has been rocked by jihadist insurgencies.
Two Chadian soldiers were killed Thursday in an ambush in the Lake Chad region, where Islamist extremists have been increasingly attacking civilians and security forces, Communications Minister Cherif Mahamat Zene told AFP on Sunday.
Provisional results from the elections are scheduled for April 25, with the final results due on May 15.
With Deby set for victory, the major question mark is over turnout.
Deby urged voters at his final rally on Friday to “turn out massively”, but many residents have voiced disinterest in an election whose outcome already appears certain.
Some 7.3 million people are eligible to vote out of a population of 15 million, but the most critical opposition parties have urged voters to boycott the election.
Weekly protest marches urging a peaceful transfer of power have been banned or forcefully dispersed.
On February 28, police and soldiers carried out a commando-style raid on the home of a prominent would-be candidate, Yaya Dillo Djerou. His mother was among at least three people killed, and he is now on the run.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are among those who have voiced criticism.
– US watching – The United States on Thursday urged Chad’s election supervisors and courts “to ensure these elections are conducted freely, fairly, and transparently”.
“We’ll be watching in the days ahead,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price warned.
Deby has also benefited, as previously, from divisions and weaknesses within opposition ranks.
Francois Djekombe, president of the opposition Sacred Union for the Republic, said efforts to mobilise the public had been weakened by internal squabbles, poor leadership and inadequate communications.
“Let us humbly acknowledge that we have failed,” he said ahead of polling day. “It’s clear that people don’t want the popular revolt that we tried to impose.”
Kelma Manatouma, a Chad expert at the University of Paris-Nanterre, said that “with the considerable means Deby has mobilised, it is certain he will win.”
Chad has been an oil producer since 2003, but it remains deeply poor.
In 2018, 42 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. In 2020, Chad ranked 187th out of 189 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index.
Chad President Idriss Deby declared a state of emergency in two eastern provinces on Sunday after violent intercommunal clashes left dozens dead earlier this month.
The state of emergency will run for three months in Sila and Ouaddai regions where 50 people have died since August 9 in fighting between cattle herders and settled farmers, the president’s office said.
“From now, we will deploy military forces who are going to ensure the security of the population in the region,” Deby said while on a trip to Sila.
“We must disarm all the civilians who have weapons in their hands,” he said.
Eastern Chad is in the grip of a cycle of violence between nomadic camel herders — many from the Zaghawa ethnic group from which Deby hails — and sedentary farmers from the Ouaddian community.
Drought and population growth have aggravated the conflict.
Chad President Idriss Deby said on Saturday he was lifting social media restrictions which were imposed more than a year ago for “security reasons.”
“For some months, security requirements led the government to toughen access conditions and control measures for electronic communications,” Deby said in a closing address to a digital forum in the capital N’Djamena.
“These measures were imposed in a context of terrorist threats (but)” the current situation ” leads me … to instruct the firms concerned to lift immediately the restriction on electronic communications,” said Deby.
On Saturday afternoon, it was possible to access social media applications including Whatsapp and Twitter, an AFP journalist reported.
Access was cut to social media in March last year as public opposition mounted over Deby’s plans to push through changes to the constitution shoring up his power after almost three decades in office.
Access remained possible using VPN networks but the use of those is costly in one of the world’s poorest nations.
Barely five percent of the population enjoy internet access.
Chad is a Western ally in the fight against jihadist groups in Africa and notably faces threats from Boko Haram, which has made several deadly incursions into its territory in recent months.
The largely desert north, bordering Sudan, Libya and Niger, is highly volatile while several rebel groups have set up base just over the border with Libya.
In late January, Chad rebels seeking to destabilise Deby entered the northeast of the country from Libya but were pushed back after French air strikes.
In the east, farmers and nomadic groups have also clashed while the south on the border with the Central African Republic is still tense after the 2013 overthrow of former CAR president sparked unrest which spilled over the border.
Legislative elections in Chad are scheduled to take place by the end of the year having been postponed several times since 2015 as Deby, who grabbed power in 1990, looks to maintain his grip on the country.
Chad President Idriss Deby has fired his armed forces chief of staff following the latest bout of unrest which culminated in a Boko Haram attack that left 23 dead.
Deby fired Brahim Seid Mahamat and his two deputies by presidential decree after six years in the post-Friday night just hours after the attack in the southwest of the country.
The soldiers were killed after coming under attack from jihadists in the early hours of Friday morning in the deadliest attack on the Chadian military by Boko Haram, which launched an insurgency in Nigeria a decade ago.
The unrest has spread to neighbouring Niger and Chad with the Boko Haram revolt to date claiming more than 27,000 lives and uprooting more than 1.7 million people.
Friday’s attack took place at Dangdala, on the northeastern bank of Lake Chad.
Thursday had seen another attack by the group kill eight civilians at Karidi in southeastern Niger in the Diffa region bordering Lake Chad, The area is one of the worst-hit areas for jihadist attacks in Niger.
Troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have been grouped into a multi-national force to fight Boko Haram.
Deby’s reorganisation of security — which included the suspension of the air force chief and his deputy — saw army chief of staff Taher Erda take the top job with a general from the northeastern region of Tibesti made chief advisor on national defence issues.
Erda is a Deby loyalist and former police chief who fought alongside the president before he took power in 1990.
The air force suspensions followed the discovery of debris from an helicopter which went missing more than a week ago in the north.
The sparsely populated, mainly desert region near the border with Sudan, Libya and Niger is volatile prone to attack from Chadian rebel groups based across the Libyan border.
In late January, France pounded Chadian rebels who had crossed back into their country from Libya to halt their incursion.
The Chadian President, Idriss Deby, is in very high spirits as he has secured a fifth term in office after winning more than 60% of the votes in the first round of presidential polls.
President Deby has been in power since 1990, when he orchestrated a military coup.
Based on the outcome of the vote, the opposition has expressed huge doubts over the credibility of the polls, especially after the opposition leader, Saleh Kebzabo finished a distant second with just under 13%.
Chad has one of the most capable armies in the region and President Deby has played a key role in efforts backed by the west to combat neighbouring Nigeria’s Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram fighters as well as Al Qaeda militants.
Central and West African states will hold a summit next month to agree a common strategy to combat the Boko Haram insurgency, their leaders said on Wednesday.
Armies from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger have launched an offensive to end the Islamic militant group’s six-year campaign, which has killed thousands in northern Nigeria and spilled over into Cameroon and Niger.
Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama and his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby told reporters in Accra that the April 7-8 summit, for which the host country has yet to be chosen, was needed to sustain the regional offensive.
Mahama chairs the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, while Deby heads the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
“Single-handedly, no country can overcome this threat and therefore through pooling our resources together …we are going to overcome this challenge,” Deby told reporters.
Chadian President, Idriss Deby on Wednesday said that he knew the whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the militant group Boko Haram, and further called on him to surrender or risk being killed.
Chad’s army, as part of a cross-border military campaign, has waged a series of battles against Boko Haram, that helped recover territories the militant group held captive in north-east Nigeria.
Speaking to journalists after a regional meeting, Deby said “Abubakar Shekau must surrender. We know where he is. If he doesn’t give himself up, he will suffer the same fate as his compatriots.” he told a news conference after a regional meeting.
The Chadian President also said Shekau was in Dikwa (a town in north-eastern Nigeria held by Boko Haram) two days earlier before the regional meeting, stating that he managed to get away but he (Deby) knew his whereabouts, and later stressed that “it is in his interests to surrender”.