NDJAMENA, Chad – Chadian President Idriss Déby has died in wounds in clashes between insurgents and government soldiers, the country’s armed forces said Tuesday shortly after they won their re-election campaign.
An Army spokesman appeared on state television to inform the nation that Mr. Déby, who had ruled Chad for more than three decades, had died.
“The President of the Republic, Head of State, Chief of Staff of the Army, Idriss Déby Itno, was just taking his last breath while defending the integrity of the nation on the battlefield,” said a spokesman in the Red Beret and Army fatigue. the broadcast is surrounded by soldiers.
The circumstances of the president’s death were not clear.
Mr Déby, 68, was on the front lines in the northern part of the Central African country, leading the fight against the rebel invasion. With the presidential election on April 11 the same day, rebels crossed the northern border from Libya.
He was scheduled to give a victory speech on Monday to celebrate winning his sixth term, but his campaign manager said he had instead visited Chadian soldiers struggling with insurgents advancing in the capital, Ndjamena.
“The candidate would have liked to have been here to celebrate,” campaign director Mahamat Zen Bada said according to local news. “But now it stands with our valiant defense and security forces against the terrorists threatening our territory.”
In the three decades since Déby seized power, he has faced a number of challenges before his rule. The rebels reached the capital in 2006 and 2008. Presidential forces have fought them, with France’s “discreet” support, according to scientists focused on Chad.
But in 2019, when Chad asked the French forces in the Sahel region for help to deal with another attack, Paris was less discreet about the support and committed itself to launching a series of air strikes against the rebels.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian then told Parliament: “France intervened militarily to prevent a coup”.
Mr Déby was largely elected with the promise of restoring peace and security in a country dominated by years of violence initiated by insurgent groups. Tensions rose in the days leading up to the most recent election, but officials urged calm.
On Monday, security forces and armored vehicles were deployed on the streets of Ndjamena, prompting residents of the capital to refuel their tanks, pick up their children early from school, and hunk at home. Chad’s Minister of Communications rested and wrote on Twitter on Monday that the presence of security personnel was “misinterpreted”.
Music Minister Chérif Mahamat added: “There is no particular threat we should fear.”
Mahamat Adamou reported from Ndjamena, Chad; and Ruth Maclean from Lagos, Nigeria.