Opinions & Features April 21, 2021 at 11:20 am

Five facts about Mahamat Idriss Deby, Chad’s new leader and Africa’s youngest head of state

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor April 21, 2021 at 11:20 am

April 21, 2021 at 11:20 am | Opinions & Features

General Mahamat Idriss Deby named Chad's new leader. (Getty Images)

It has been confirmed that General Mahamat Idriss Deby, the late President Idriss Deby Itno’s son, is taking over as president in place of his father. The Chadian army said Mahamat, 37, will be the head of a military council to replace the late president.

Idriss Déby died on the front lines of a fight against northern rebels, an army spokesman said on Tuesday. In a statement read out on State Television, army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said Deby “has just breathed his last defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield” over the weekend.

The president was on his way to the front lines to join troops battling “terrorists”, according to reports. Deby’s death came a day after he was declared the winner of a sixth term in office.

The government and parliament have since been dissolved. The army announced that a military council will govern for the next 18 months. Mahamat, a general in the Chadian army, will be the head of the military council and “occupy the functions of the president of the republic”, according to a charter released Wednesday by the presidency. Mahamat, who had previously overseen his father’s security as head of the elite presidential guard, will also serve as head of the armed forces, the charter stated.

Under Chadian law, the speaker of parliament should have taken power after Deby’s death, experts said. But with the legislative assembly and the constitution being dissolved, the military have replaced the constitution with their own rules, analysts say.

A transition government will now lead by a military council which is tasked with an 18-month transition toward “free and democratic elections.” Members of the military council are named by the new president who will also chair the “military transition council, the council of ministers, the councils and superior committees of national defence,” according to the charter.

Here’s all you need to know about the new Chadian leader who is now Africa’s youngest head of state:

1. Mahamat, who is the commander in chief of the red-bereted presidential guard or DGSSIE security service for state institutions, was raised by his paternal grandmother in the capital, N’Djamena. He is from the Zaghawa ethnic group, which has several top officers in the army.

2. Nicknamed “Kaka” or grandmother in Chadian Arabic, Mahamat was trained at the Groupement des Écoles Militaires Interarmées du Tchad (joint military schools in Chad) during the mid-2000s. He subsequently went to a military school in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, but spent only one term there before returning home. Upon his return, he went back to training at a military school in the capital and joined the presidential guard. Soon, he rose through the command structure from an armored group to head of security at the presidential palace before assuming control of the whole DGSSIE structure, according to a report by Aljazeera.

3. Mahamat is well known for defeating his cousin Timan Erdimi’s rebels in the Battle of Am Dam in 2009. While still a young officer, Mahamat and government forces fought against the rebels who had crossed into the country from Sudan.

4. In 2013, Mahamat was appointed deputy chief of the Chadian army deployed to Mali, where he worked closely with French troops in operation Serval in 2013 to 2014. The operation was to oust Islamic militants from the north of Mali.

5. Mahamat, known in military circles as “the man in dark glasses”, married from the Sharan Goran ethnic group, where his mother is from. His wife is Dahabaye Oumar Souny, a journalist at the presidential press service. Souny’s father is a senior official who was close to ex-dictator Hissene Habre, the Aljazeera report noted. Habre was ousted by Idriss Deby in December 1990. The Zaghawa community is therefore skeptical about Mahamat’s leadership, experts say. Opposition politicians in Chad have already rejected the army’s appointment of Mahamat, saying “Chad is not a monarchy.”

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