UImmediately after his re-election for a sixth term in office, Chadian head of state Idriss Déby perished while visiting the front under circumstances that were not clear. On April 11, Déby was confirmed in office with 80 percent of the votes. The election result was announced on Monday. On Tuesday his death was announced on television by a general. The 68-year-old president had “just breathed his life out when he defended the sovereign nation on the battlefield at the weekend,” it said. Accordingly, after the election results were announced, Déby decided not to give a victory speech, but to visit the Chadian soldiers at the front who are fighting against insurgents there.
A rebel group that calls itself Front for Change and Unity in Chad (FACT) and is stationed on the northern border with Libya attacked a border post on election day and had advanced hundreds of kilometers south to just before the capital N’Djamena. There the supporters fought heavy battles with the army. According to an army spokesman, the rebels are said to have suffered a setback at the weekend; they only spoke of a “mistake” that delayed their “triumphant march” to the capital. The United States asked embassy staff to leave the country on Saturday. The British government had asked its citizens to do so beforehand.
Coupled to power in 1990
The news has also made waves abroad. Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was surprised during a visit to the French Defense Minister Florence Parly in Paris on Tuesday. The head of state Déby, who has ruled for 31 years, was one of the most important partners in the G5 Sahel Initiative founded by Germany and France seven years ago, an amalgamation of Chad with Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The “Alliance for the Sahel”, which was also launched in July 2015 by Berlin and Paris, increased financial aid for development cooperation. With Franco-German help, the five states have set up an intervention force to fight terrorism, in which Chadian soldiers shoulder the main burden. At the same time, the G5 Sahel is committed to fighting poverty, expanding infrastructure and developing agriculture.
On all of these issues, Déby, a former military man who came to power in 1990, was a trusted ally. Originally, a G5 Sahel summit meeting in the Chadian capital with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) and French President Emmanuel Macron was planned in February to symbolically thank Déby for his commitment. The summit was then only organized by video conference. At the time there were rumors that Déby was too busy asserting his power in his own country. The potentate was known for his repressive course against the opposition, and at the same time had one of the few operational armies in Francophone Africa. Déby is likely to succeed his son Mahamat Idriss Déby, a four-star general, it said on Tuesday.
Anchors of stability in the Sahel region
France and Germany had justified their close cooperation with the autocratic regime with concerns about uncontrolled refugee flows to Europe. All G5 countries are countries of origin and transit countries for refugees who are striving for Europe. Until now, Chad has been seen as an anchor of stability in the Sahel region, which is increasingly shattered by terrorist movements.
German aid to Chad and the other G5 countries was last increased at the G7 summit in Biarritz. There, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), Macron and the President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Kaboré, presented a further development of the Sahel Alliance, which should include more money, more equipment and more training aid. Since 2010, the EU has provided more than twelve billion euros for security and development in the Sahel region.
While Western countries saw Déby as an important ally in the fight against terrorism, dissatisfaction in Chad has grown over its autocratic government and poverty in an oil-rich country. The election campaign in particular was marked by tension, several opposition politicians had canceled their participation and demonstrations had been banned. So far, however, the president has been able to rely on the support of state institutions and the military. In 2018 he pushed through a constitutional amendment to stay in power until 2033.
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