Chad President Idriss Déby died from injuries sustained while fighting rebels in the country’s north over the weekend, the Chadian army claimed in a statement Tuesday.
President Déby “breathed his last defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield,” a Chadian army general said on state TV on April 20.
The president had allegedly “gone to the frontline” several hundred miles north of Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, over the weekend to visit Chadian soldiers battling members of a rebel group called the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, known by its French initialism, FACT.
Déby, a former Chadian army officer who came to power in 1990 by leading his own armed uprising, served as Chad’s president for over 30 years before his death Tuesday at the age of 68. He was one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders and an ally of France and other Western nations in the battle against jihadist groups in Africa’s Sahel region, particularly Boko Haram.
Déby died one day after provisional election results from Chad’s recent general election projected he would win a sixth term in office as president. Chad’s government and parliament have been dissolved in the wake of the president’s death.
Déby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Déby — a four-star general in the Chadian army — will lead a military council charged with governing Chad for the next 18 months. Chad will hold “free and democratic” elections once the 18-month transitionary period ends, the Chadian army said in a statement Tuesday.
The Chadian military has imposed a curfew across Chad and shut the country’s borders to better control the rebel insurgency in the north that reportedly killed Déby over the weekend.
The heavily armed FACT rebel group launched an attack on the Chadian military from a base in southern Libya, which borders Chad to the north, on April 11, the day of Chad’s most recent presidential election.
The Chadian army said on April 19 it had killed 300 FACT rebels in an attempt to repel the group’s incursion in northern Chad. At least five Chadian soldiers died defending the country over the weekend, the army added.
President Déby had campaigned for the April 11 general election on a platform promising to bring peace and security to Chad, located in a volatile region of north-central Africa. In the run-up to the election, Déby had faced growing criticism for his government’s handling of Chadian oil resources, which many Chadians believed were mismanaged.