Long-serving Chad president Idriss Deby has died after 30 years at the helm of the country. Deby is reported to have been killed on the frontline, where Chad’s army is battling northern rebels.
Deby’s death comes just one day after he was declared the winner of a sixth term in office. He was 68 years old.
In a statement read out on state television, army spokesman, General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said,
“The president of the republic, head of state, supreme head of the army, Idriss Déby Itno, has just breathed his last while defending the territorial integrity on the battlefield. It is with deep bitterness that we announce to the Chadian people the death this Tuesday, April 20, 2021 of the Marshal of Chad”
Deby was a career military officer who seized power in 1990 in a coup, was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal last August.
He was re-elected for a six-year term with 79.32% of the votes cast, according to provisional results announced on Monday evening by the national electoral body.
He was expected to give a victory speech after receiving the provisional results, but opted instead to visit Chadian soldiers on the front lines, said his campaign director Mahamat Zen Bada.
According to one report, the soldiers were attacked by militants from the Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad (FACT) (Front for Change and Concord in Chad) who had arrived from their base in Libya and had entered Chadian soil on 11 April. Their stated goal was to rid the country of Déby’s 31 years of power.
The rebels had claimed that Deby had been wounded in the fighting which was taking place in the centre-west of the country, near Nokou in Kanem. He was reportedly wounded on the battlefield on Sunday and airlifted to the capital N’Djamena, 400 km away by helicopter.
The circumstances of Deby’s death could not immediately be independently confirmed due to the remote location. It was not known why the president would have visited the area or participated in ongoing clashes with the rebels who opposed his rule.
On Monday, the army had claimed a “great victory” in its battle against the rebels from neighbouring Libya, saying it had killed 300 fighters, with the loss of five soldiers in its own ranks during eight days of combat.
Following Deby’s death, the constitution has been suspended. A military council will take over in the interim, under the leadership of General Mahamat Kaka, otherwise known as Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, the son of the late president.
According to The Africa Report, this temporary government should remain in place for 18 months.
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