Déby had been in power in Chad since 1990, when he staged a coup with the support of neighboring countries Libya and Sudan. In the years before, he had received military training in France, including at the prestigious École de Guerre.
“Déby was known as a smart strategist,” says journalist Gerbert van der Aa, who specializes in the region around Chad. While other countries in that area have been suffering from attacks by terror groups Boko Haram and al-Qaeda for years, in Chad that was never really a problem. By spending a lot of money on the army, Déby managed to suppress that kind of scum. “
Rebel group Fact
During his reign for decades, Déby was startled several times by coup attempts and attempts on his life. Although he always came out unscathed, the president was still unable to definitively quell instability in his country.
In all probability, it is precisely this instability that has cost him his life. According to official reports, Déby fell victim to the rebel group Fact, which is trying to take control of Chad from Libya.
“Many of those fighters were originally hired as mercenaries by the Libyan government or other armed groups there. They collected funds and weapons for the battle,” explains Van der Aa. “Subsequently, those rebel movements managed to train and organize themselves in Libya, to cross the border every now and then with a large column of soldiers and equipment.”
Succeeded by son
Immediately after news of Deby’s death was communicated, the military also announced that his 37-year-old son has been appointed as successor. Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno must maintain stability in the country over a transition period of 18 months. The military then promises “free and democratic” elections.
Opposition parties in Chad have expressed dissatisfaction with the state of affairs and are talking about a coup. But there is also criticism within Déby’s own ranks, Van der Aa sees. “Officially Chad is a parliamentary democracy and after the death of a president all kinds of procedures apply. These are not followed now. Within the Chadian elite you have people who think that is going too far.”
In any case, Déby junior is in a vulnerable position. Rebel group Fact said they do not agree with the transfer of power. The group says it is advancing from the north to the capital Ndjamena to depose the new leader there.
The uncertainty about the coming period will not only affect Chad, but the entire region. Thanks to his powerful army, President Déby was considered an important ruler in the Sahel region, which has been struggling for years with attacks by Islamic terror groups. Known as hardened warriors, Chadian soldiers are an important link in the international fight against those extremists. The army is also working closely with the French on the UN mission in Mali.