Chad's president Idriss Déby dies 'on battlefield' a day after winning election

20 April 2021, 14:40

Chad's president Idriss Déby was reportedly killed during clashes with rebels
Chad's president Idriss Déby was reportedly killed during clashes with rebels. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Chad's president Idriss Déby has been killed on the battlefield in clashes with rebels just a day after winning the election, the country's military has announced.

The 69-year-old had ruled over the central African nation for more than three decades after coming to power in 1990.

Hours before his death, election officials declared he had easily won a sixth term in office, shortly after the leader of an advancing rebel group threatening his rule announced a "strategic withdrawal".

Following the announcement, the military said a transitional council will be put in place and led by the president's son, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno.

Mr Déby was set to stay in power for another six years after it was confirmed he had won the 11 April ballot.

The remote location of the battlefield where he was reportedly killed means it is not yet possible to independently confirm the circumstances of his death.

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Supporters of Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno gather for a rally in N'djamena, Chad, on Friday 9 April
Supporters of Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno gather for a rally in N'djamena, Chad, on Friday 9 April. Picture: PA

It is currently unclear why he would have travelled to the frontline in northern Chad.

The former army commander-in-chief first came to power when his rebel forces overthrew then-president Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses at an international tribunal in Senegal.

He has since survived a number of armed rebellions and maintained power until this latest insurgency, led by the self-proclaimed Front for Change and Concord in Chad.

It is believed the group was armed and trained in neighbouring Libya before crossing the border into northern Chad on 11 April.

Their arrival coincided with the country's election, which several top opposition candidates boycotted.

Mr Déby meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron early last year
Mr Déby meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron early last year. Picture: PA

Mr Déby won more than 79 per cent of the votes, according to official results.

Chad, a French colony until its independence in 1960, has become a powerful ally of France in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa under Mr Deby's tenure.

It is now home to the French military's Operation Barkhane, which deploys troops across the continent to fight Islamic extremism.

The central African nation has been a major contributor to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, which has sought to stabilise the west African country after a French-led military forced jihadists from power in northern Mali in 2013.

Chad's soldiers have also long battled militants from the extremist group Boko Haram, which originated in north-eastern Nigeria and spread to neighbouring countries including Chad.

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