The situation is uncertain in Chad after President Idriss Déby, who ruled the country for 30 years, died after fighting rebel forces.
Photo: Paul Kagame, Flickr


Uncertain future for Chad after the president's death

Following the sudden death of President Idriss Déby in April, the Central African country of Chad is in uncertainty. The military council that was appointed shortly afterwards with Déby's son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, at the helm, has created debate and divided opinions both within and outside the country's borders.

The political opposition and actors from civil society have taken a stand critical of the military junta's superiority as they believe that the takeover disputes the country's constitution. Supporters of the former president believes, on the other hand, that it is necessary for the Military Council to step in to maintain regional peace and stability. Even the former colonial power France supports this decision and considers it important to maintain security in the area. The unexpected death and the divided voices about the new military council are factors that can affect the country negatively.

- It is possible that Chad will experience deep internal instability, partly due to the very nature of this type of transition, says Angela Muvumba-Sellström, researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute, to Utvecklingsmagasinet.

But the risk of uncertainties within the country can be minimized. Muvumba-Sellström believes this is possible if the military council cooperates with civil society and the opposition by organizing a national dialogue and shows a willingness to keep the elections as promised.

Divisions within the military

Chad's troops are considered to be some of the largest and best equipped in West Africa, but despite being strong in the region exist divisions within the military. The military is built on ethnicity, where the elite forces, led by the president's closest clan, are better trained, equipped and paid than the other soldiers, which creates dissatisfaction within the military. It is also uncertain whether Mahamat Déby holds enough authority to lead the military as effectively as his father. In addition, mistrust of the military is rising among the population.

Since its independence from France, Chad has struggled instability in the country and much of the unrest is due to conflicts between different ethnic groups. Even today, internal conflicts are something that hits the country hard and risks being exacerbated by the prevailing uncertainty after Déby's death.

Risk of withdrawal of troops

The split within the Chadian military may involve difficulties for Mahamat Déby and there is some concern about whether he will succeed in keeping the military together. Failure of the military means difficulties not only for Chad, but also for the whole region, which is known for its instability. There are several extremist groups in the region and Chad's military has supported several other countries in the fight against them. In neighboring Nigeria, where Boko Haram has created great insecurity, Déby and his forces have played a major role in the fight against terrorism.

Déby's death is also problematic for the G5 organization in the Sahel region, which is an organization with the aim of working for security and development cooperation in the area. In the G5 Sahel, Chad has a leading military role, providing several countries with military forces.

If Chad withdraws its troops from other countries, this will put greater pressure on the countries' own military. There is a risk that Chad's internal uncertainty leads to a withdrawal from countries such as Mali, the Central African Republic and Nigeria. If the extremist forces in the region grow and become stronger due to instability in Chad it would endanger thousands of people around Lake Chad and in the Sahel region. This would also complicate the military arrangement between Chad and Western as well as regional governments.

- I believe that Déby's death can have a major impact on regional security, says Angela Muvumba-Sellström.

France supports the military council with Idriss Déby's son Mahamat Idriss Déby as leader.
Photo: US Army Southern European Task Force Africa, Flickr
This has happened in Chad

On April 20, a military spokesman reported that Chadian President Idriss Déby had died from injuries sustained after fighting the rebel group FACT (Front for Change and Concord in Chad) in the northern part of the country. This came just days after Déby, who has ruled the country for 30 years, was re-elected president for another term with almost 80 percent of the vote. Immediately after Déby's death, a military council with Déby's 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Déby took power. The Council has now appointed a transitional government and announced that new elections will be held within 18 months.

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