Chad President Idriss Dėby Dies in Clashes With Rebels

Peter Sloniewsky, Staff Writer

A day after provisional election results showed his victory for a sixth term in office, Chad President Idriss Dėby died in clashes with rebels several hundred miles north of the capital, N’Djamena. He had gone to the front line to visit troops battling rebels from the group Fact, or the Front for Change and Concord in Chad. Thousands of Chadians attended his state funeral, in addition to foreign leaders, including France’s President Emmanuel Macron. Macron had aligned with Chad to fight jihadists in the region and described him as a “brave friend”. 

Dėby was the rare warrior president; the BBC said, “[Déby was the] opposite of an armchair general”. Throughout his decades-long career, he was involved in the battlefield and was known as a strong leader. While it is unclear if the state he leaves behind can manage a smooth transition to its next leader, his final election victory saw him claim almost 80% of the vote.

Since his death, in an action frowned upon by the international community, Dėby’s son, a four-star general, seized power and pledged to govern the country by military council for the next eighteen months. Mahamat Dėby, the son of Idriss, has released fifteen other generals to the Transitional Military Council that will rule over Chad, and has promised “free and democratic” elections once the transition period is over.

However, the Chad constitution states that the speaker of Parliament should take over when a sitting president dies before organizing elections. Concerns over whether free elections will actually be held have been raised in light of the council’s actions, which included the dissolution of government and parliament, the imposing of a curfew and the shuttering of Chad’s borders.

With these actions by the new sitting government, the role of Chad as an ally to the West also comes into question. For years, Dėby acted as the West’s instrumental ally in the war against Islamist militants in the region. Western countries, especially France, have deployed troops and weaponry in the region for Chad’s benefit and to fight Chad’s enemies. The establishment of a new government has already begun to bring about changes to Chad’s international presence.