Chadian President Idriss Deby killed in rebel clash;military council takes over

Rachel Brooks

April 20, 2021 

News and analysis

Above image: “London Conference on The Illegal Wildlife Trade” by Foreign and Commonwealth Office is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Chadian President Idriss Deby has been killed in battle with rebels following mere hours after his successful reelection campaign which would have given him another six years in power. Deby sustained injuries in the clashes with rebels that transpired over the weekend, the army confirmed. The announcement of his death came one day after it was announced that he had been re-elected as Chad’s president. This would have secured him another six years in the position. Deby had been reelected for his sixth term as Chad’s president. He is one of the longest-serving public officials of modern African history.

Read more on the weekend clashes below, from our Africa correspondent. 

300 rebels killed by Chadian military; Chad’s president killed in combat, developing


 A trained military officer, Deby came to power in 1990 after an armed uprising. The BBC reported Deby as a “long time ally of France and the West” as a strong resistant force in the battle against jihadism in the Sahel. He was a commander in the Chadian-Libyan conflict of the 80s, fighting in a phase of the conflict known as the Toyota War. 

He was dubbed “a true warrior president” by the BBC, as he was known for leading troops in the militarized clashes. Having been in power for 30 years, Deby’s death results in a power vacuum in Chad. This vacuum will increase pressures in the country as many may “fight to kill” said vacuum, BBC Africa reports.

The BBC reports that the government and the parliament have been dissolved and Chad has shut its borders. In the interim, a military council governed by Deby’s 37-year-old son will be in power for the next 18 months as the country proceeds in the wake of chaos. Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno will lead the council but “free and democratic” elections will be held once the transition period expires. 

The BBC reported the growing unrest in Chad is related to the government’s management of oil resources, a management that the Chadian government was accused of using to fuel its battle against rebellions rather than to pull the nation out of poverty and despair. Deby’s death was in a clash with the same forces trying to oust him from power, reports Deutsche Welle. 

Deby’s death leaves a shadow of uncertainty over Boko Haram conflict mediation 

Deby was a known mediator of the Boko Haram insurgency to his west, an insurgency which has plunged Nigeria and its neighbors into chaos. His sudden absence from conflict mediation has cast a shadow over that process. Deby’s long-term relationship with France allowed France to station troops in Chad. He allowed the French to keep a base of operations against the Islamist insurgencies, with the most prominent being French-led Operation Barkhane.

Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, Deby’s son, is a four-star general and the new commander on the front of rebellions, standing as the face of leadership amid the rage against the national poverty. He will be backed in power by his brother Abdelkerim Idriss Déby, the 29-year-old son of Deby who is a powerful force in the cabinet where he served in the former government as deputy chief of staff. The Chadian government under Deby was a familial affair with other siblings Hissein Idriss Déby, who specialises in business, and Fatimé Idriss Déby, deputy director of the N’Djamena oil refinery, set up in offices of support. 

Yet, the control of the Deby family stands on a shaky precipice of its own in the nation. The Africa Report predicted Deby’s election as his last when, on April 13, the outlet reported that, while Deby was the overwhelming favorite of the democratic elections, this election could be his last. 

“‘For Pahimi Padacké, the presidential election is only a stage. In 2016, he allied himself with Idriss Déby Itno and became prime minister. This allowed him to place his men within the administration, build up a war chest and structure his party. Now he is going it alone and aiming for a position in the post-Déby era,’ says a political scientist,” stated The Africa Report, reporting the interests of Deby’s former prime minister who had his own designs on the “post-Deby” era of politics, which was expected in six years time. That time has come all at once with his passing, and in the ensuing instability such interests may reveal themselves.

“‘The period from 11 April to 24 October will set the tone for Idriss Déby Itno’s next mandate. He must renew the MPS, bring in some new people, so as not to be overwhelmed by the new faces of the opposition that may be Masra and Pahimi Padacké,” said the political scientist. During the campaign, Déby spoke a lot to young people and women, to whom he promised to devote the next six years, mentioning “full parity, employment and entrepreneurship” as the main challenges,'” further stated The Africa Report noting that the youth of the nation had referred to this election as Deby’s “final battle” and “final mandate” in the day’s leading up to his almost guarantee victory and final chance to bring in fresh faces and a new perspective  to his cabnient. Now he is abruptly gone, leaving the north with no official representative, as all of those running against him were from the south of Chad.

France 24 reports that the rebel raid occured in the Tibesti and Kanem provinces and was carried out by the Frotn for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) which is based in Libya. The rebel group has a non-aggression pact with Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar the de facto leader of much of Libya’s east.