Chad’s pro-Western, pro-Israel president Idriss Deby has died of wounds suffered on the frontline in the country’s north, where he had gone to visit soldiers battling rebels.
Deby, 68, was only declared the winner of the African nation’s presidential election yesterday. Provisional results showed that Deby had taken 79.3 percent of the vote.
The army said the president had been commanding his troops at the weekend as they battled rebels who had launched a major incursion into the north of the country on April 11.
The late president’s 37-year-old son, four-star General Mahamat Idriss Deby, will replace him.
As a young man, Deby enrolled at the officers’ academy in the capital Ndjamena before heading to France where he trained as a pilot. He returned in 1979 to a country in the grip of feuding warlords and rose to the post of army chief in 1982.
In 1996, six years after he seized power and ushered in democracy, Deby was elected head of state in Chad’s first multi-party vote. He won again in succeeding elections.
Deby was solidly backed by former colonial power France, which in 2008 and 2019 used military force to help defeat rebels who tried to oust him.
In 2015, Deby launched a regional offensive in Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger against Nigeria-based Boko Haram fighters, dubbing the ISIS affiliate “a horde of crazies and drug addicts.”
In 2019, Deby hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a snap visit after renewing N’Djamena’s ties with Israel, severed in 1972. A couple of months earlier, Deby visited Israel and met with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
Chad has a population of around d 17 million people, just over half of whom are Muslims.