Hopes and Fears For A Post Deby Chad

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Chadian President Idriss Deby died in battle after some thirty years in power

For President Idris Deby, his departure from power was eerily familiar with the way he came to power. A rebellion brought him to power, and he left the stage fighting to fend off a rebelling seeking to unseat him after over thirty years in power.

Fresh off a victory in the presidential election which was a little more tricky than usual with emergence of more voices calling for change in Chad, the news of Deby’s death left many stunned and perplexed. Any hopes that his long stay in power had resolved the issue of political stability in Chad were thrown to the wind as the established constitutional order of succession was shelved. The complex arrangement of sorts led to emergence of his 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Deby as the new leader.

PAV caught up with seasoned Chadian political analyst Amine Idriss to help dissect developments in the Central African country.

Thanks for accepting to answer our questions Mr. Idriss, could we start with your understanding of what happened to President Deby, while official sources say he was shot at the war front, there are others who say he was killed by those in his inner cycle, what did you hear from your own sources?

The official version is the one I know: President Deby was killed in the battlefield. Personally, I believe this version is plausible since Chad has a tradition of having the generals and heads of armies directly in the battlefield taking an active part in the fights. 

Were there any warning signs you saw that could suggest such a fate befalling a leader who was considered as very courageous and had won re-election?

Any warning signs? Not necessarily but I noticed that during the campaign; he became quite frustrated with his opposition, pushing him to violently express his frustrations. He had also been for the first time visiting each and every province of the country, and even going house after house in some places in Ndjamena. Many people were astonished because that was the first time we saw Deby doing that. 

On the other hand, the political situation of the country was becoming more and more difficult during the recent campaign, with a new opposition movement led by a youngster, who didn’t necessarily have the power to overthrow Deby through elections but represented a strong part of the public opinion views about the need for change. Succès Masra’s movement introduced a new dimension in Chadian politics, awakening the old political guards, and pushing even Deby and his team to join the internet and to add some more young people in the government. Besides that, the social situation was also more difficult, because of the COVID19 economic impact but also because corruption had never been so high than during the period. Lastly and more important, during the pre-campaign, some armed rebellions clearly declared their intention to stop the elections to happen. We all knew this time would be disturbed and predicted some serious social and political tensions; but nobody could predict that Deby would be killed in a battlefield. 

Late President Deby’s, Gen Mahamat Déby Itno, emerged as the new leader of Chad in an arrangement that left many scratching heads.Photo credit AFP

Chad had a constitution with clear cut provisions on succession in case of a presidential vacancy, why was this not respected?

Good question… most Chadian politicians in the opposition were against the Constitution before the election. This constitution which was recently adopted clearly reduced the political space by limiting the youth participation in the electoral process. Most of the actors were then against it.

In addition to that, the parliament that voted the constitution had not been renewed for the last 5 years: MPs were supposed to be gone since 2015 or 2016! But despite that, the provisions of the constitution are clear: the President of the Parliament should have been vested to become the provisional President for 90 days then organize the elections. That was not the case, and the military preferred the option of seizing the power, arguing on the necessity to preserve the country’s security and unity. 

Why the choice of Mahamat Idriss Deby to succeed his father when they were more senior military officials?

I have no idea why… 

What kind of legacy does President Deby leave behind, he was in power for some thirty years, what changed for Chad under his leadership?

Under Deby’s leadership, what changed? Not many things to tell you the truth. The country followed the course of nature, with more people born (we passed from 5 million in 1990 to 16 million today) and we become poorer. Chad has had an opportunity to transform itself when we stated producing oil, but this was badly managed and became a mess, increasing corruption and bad administration. The country is today amongst the poorest and amongst the most corrupt in the world. So, what have changed? One could say that the biggest win of Deby is the military diplomacy… he has indeed managed to make Chad a kind of policeman for regional security and the world is lauding him for that. This is good for Chad’s image. But Chadians are still poor and have no access to basic amenities such as clean water and electricity, education, health, and others.

For the last thirty years, Chad had a semblance of political stability, void of frequent rebellions and military coups, are you afraid that the death of President Deby makes the country fragile again?

The country has always been fragile and unstable. Deby was indeed a kind of a stabilizer. I am not sure it would become worst. We may have this time the opportunity to discuss differently. The Chadian political space has opened, and this can be good for internal discussions.

What do you make of the way the opposition in Chad has reacted to the recent developments, what tangible alternatives are they proposing as a way forward?

I don’t think the opposition would make a big difference right now. They are too divided and too weak. The civil society also lost its independence aligning itself with the political power. But things could eventually change from all sides if Chad is suspended by the AU… this will push people and specially those controlling power to become more collaborative, and the opposition could start asserting some of her views. However, for the opposition to win anything they must learn to come together. For a country with such a   high level of poverty and political instability, I am not sure that would happen anytime soon. But if the civil society receives the appropriate support and guidance, they may help in building an environment in which political parties may come together and discuss. 

The Chadian political space has opened, and this can be good for internal discussions, says political analyst Amine Idriss

On the future of Chad, what gives you hope and what are your fears?

My main fear is the ethnic divide, and this has already started especially from some politicians. My hope is the civil society and especially the youth from the civil society. A change is on the way. 

A last question on this phenomenon of family successions in Francophone Africa, we saw this in Togo, in D.R. Congo, in Gabon, now Chad and who knows which country will come next, how concerned should Africans be about this trend?

This is just what we called extractive regimes… extractive regimes tend to reproduce themselves… 

**Courtesy of May Issue of PAV Magazine

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