Chad slain leader’s son takes power as rivals slam ‘coup’


N’DJAMENA, April 21, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – Chad faced an uncertain
future on Wednesday as the son of slain leader Idriss Deby Itno took
power in what the opposition called a coup and Western allies that
rely on the country’s military might pleaded for stability.

Deby had ruled the impoverished desert country for three decades
before the army announced his death on Tuesday from wounds suffered
while leading troops in battle against rebels.

The shock demise of the 68-year-old led to immediate concerns of a
power vacuum in Chad, which sits at the heart of the troubled Sahel
region and is key to the West’s anti-jihadist efforts.

Deby’s death was announced only a day after provisional results
declared him the winner of an April 11 election giving him a sixth
term in office.

The outcome was never in doubt, with a divided opposition, boycott
calls, and a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or

Allies of the late leader moved swiftly to assure power remained in
their hands, installing Deby’s 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Deby as
president and head of a transitional military council while dissolving
parliament and the government.

They tore up Chad’s constitution and established a “Transition
Charter” that lays out a new basic law for the country of 16 million
people that spans western and central Africa.

The charter issued Wednesday proclaimed that Mahamat, a career
soldier like his father who had been head of the powerful presidential
guard, will “occupy the functions of the president of the republic”
and also serve as head of the armed forces.

The transition period is meant to last 18 months and lead to
democratic elections, though it can be extended once.

– ‘Illegitimate decisions’ –

Chad’s main opposition parties were unconvinced, denouncing an
“institutional coup d’etat” in a statement and calling on citizens
“not to obey illegitimate decisions” by the military council.

Beyond that, the threat remained from rebels who launched an
incursion into the country’s north from Libya on the day of the April
11 election despite army claims they had been defeated.

The rebel group, known as FACT, told AFP on Tuesday it would pursue
its offensive after a pause for Deby’s state funeral on Friday.

“We categorically reject the transition,” FACT spokesman Kingabe
Ogouzeimi de Tapol said. “Our troops are en route towards N’Djamena.”

Gun-toting soldiers in fatigues and members of the red-bereted
presidential guard were seen patrolling the capital in the aftermath
of Deby’s death.

But on Wednesday, banks, markets and most shops were open while the
national flag flew at half-mast on public buildings.

For Western countries, particularly former colonial power France,
the death of Deby meant the loss of their staunchest ally in the fight
against jihadists in Africa’s Sahel, where myriad Islamist extremist
groups operate.

France’s 5,100-strong Barkhane anti-jihadist force is headquartered
in N’Djamena, while Chad’s military has led successful raids against
Islamist extremists.

Deby had in the past gone to the frontlines to lead troops into
battle himself, including during a 2020 raid against the Boko Haram
extremist group.

– ‘Key partner’ –

France, whose President Emmanuel Macron will attend Deby’s funeral,
as well as the European Union have called for a peaceful transition
limited in timeframe.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said Deby was a “key partner” and had made
significant contributions to help “combat terrorism”.

The United States meanwhile urged a peaceful transition that abides
by the constitution — a demand that has been ignored.

Beyond consolidating power, the military council had also closed
Chad’s borders on Tuesday before reopening them on Wednesday. A curfew
was relaxed but will remain in place between 8 pm and 5 am.

Some analysts expressed concern over whether Deby’s death could
unleash new violence and said divisions within Chad’s powerful
security apparatus could emerge, particularly with an inexperienced
strongman at the helm.

Only days ago the army had claimed a “great victory” against
fighters from FACT, or the Front for Change and Concord in Chad.

The military said Monday it had killed more than 300 rebels and
captured 150 others, with the loss of five soldiers — without
mentioning Deby’s injuries.

“The potentially explosive consequences of president Deby’s death
cannot be underestimated — both for the future of Chad and across the
region,” said Ida Sawyer of US-based Human Rights Watch.

“Chad’s regional and international partners should closely monitor
the situation and use their influence to prevent abuses against