How Former Chad President, Idriss Deby died

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Chad set to bury Idriss Deby Friday
Chinedu Ibeakanma
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On Tuesday, Chad’s armed forces stunned the nation by announcing that Deby had died from wounds suffered while leading soldiers on the front line against rebels advancing from the north towards the capital, N’Djamena. He was 68.

“The president of the republic, head of state, supreme chief of the army, Idriss Deby Itno, just drew his last breath while defending the nation’s integrity on the battlefield,” army spokesman Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a televised statement while surrounded by men in army fatigues.

The exact circumstances of Deby’s death, however, remain unclear.

One of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, Deby governed Chad for more than 30 years.

Hailing from the Zaghawa ethnic group, he grew up in the northeastern region of Ennedi. He joined the army in the early 1970s, at a time when Chad was gripped by a long-running civil war, and received additional military training in France.

Deby rose to the rank of commander-in-chief of the armed forces and eventually came to power by spearheading a 1990 rebellion that overthrew authoritarian leader Hissene Habre, after the two men’s relations soured.

He officially took office in February the following year, and went on to win elections in 1996 and again in 2001 before pushing through a constitutional change in 2018 that could have allowed him to stay in power until 2033.

“Have you ever seen a head of state take up arms and go into battle?” Deby said during an annual news conference in 2018. “You think I do this because I’m brave? Because I’m courageous? No, I do it because I love this country and I prefer to die on the battlefield than for disorder and misery to descend on the country.”

Last year, Deby added “Marshal” to his official title.

“Chad has lost a great soldier and a president who worked tirelessly for the security of the country and the stability of the region for three decades,” the French presidency said in a statement, adding that France had lost a “brave friend”.

For its part, the White House offered “sincere condolences” to Chadians and said the United States supported “a peaceful transition of power in accordance with the Chadian constitution”.

At home, Deby faced the threat of rebel groups trying to overthrow him. Rebels reached the capital in 2006 and 2008 and came close again in 2019. The president’s forces fought them off, sometimes with the help of France, as in 2019.


This post was written by Chinedu Ibeakanma.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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