N’DJAMENA, 20 April 2021 – Political leaders and rights groups in Chad are decrying as a coup the appointment of Idriss Deby’s son as the new president.
“This is a coup d’etat. This is not provided for by the texts. So it is an anti-constitutional regime,” said Evariste Ngarlem Tolde, a Chadian political scientist and professor at the state-owned University of N’Djamena.
The announcement that a military council will take power following the death of Deby came Tuesday but has been roundly rejected by democracy and rights activists.
“We must follow the constitution,” said Saleh Kebzabo, leader of the opposition UNDR political party which boycotted Chad’s presidential election of last April 11 citing violence on opposition leaders and supporters in the run-up to the vote.
Our constitution “provides that in case of vacancy of power, it is the president of the National Assembly who should lead in the interim until the new elections,” Ngarlem Tolde told reporters Tuesday.
Activists are referencing article 70 of Chad’s constitution which states that in the event of the death of one of the two leading candidates in an election, a fresh election should be held.
“This transitional military council has no place. So for me, it is a coup d’etat,” he added.
“This is a coup d’etat,” agreed Succes Masra, leader of the opposition Transformers of Chad political party, encouraging the organization of “a civilian-led transition” along the lines of the transition set up in Khartoum, Sudan, following the ousting of former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir.
Masra, who was declared too young to run in Chad’s last presidential election, said the succession of one Deby by another is tantamount to giving Chadians who hunger for change more of the same.
The 37-year-old son of Deby, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, also known as Mahamat Kaka, will govern the country for the next 18 months before organizing elections, according to a statement from the country’s army broadcast Tuesday by state television.
Article 81 of Chad’s constitution further states that in the event of the death of the president or if the president is indisposed, the president of the National Assembly should take office and fresh elections should be held between 45 and 90 days of the vacancy.
The Speaker of the National Assembly charged with managing the transition and organizing elections cannot stand for office.
Chad was a tyranny under Idriss Deby and is now officially in the process of transforming into a Deby monarchy, said one rights activists, speaking under the cover of anonymity for fear of being targeted for expressing his views.
“The role of our army – and Mr. Kaka – is to continue to help us fight terrorism, the army should be backing the people of Chad,” said Masra.
The young leader said he met with Deby a month before the April 11 election and told the now-former president that “it was time to step down because the people of Chad want change”.
“We think an inclusive national dialogue is imperative to address all the problems that have plagued this country,” Kebzabo added in an interview with the BBC Africa Service.
The rebels of FACT (Front for Change and Concord in Chad) who launched these latest attacks last April 11 insist that their goal is to rid the country of Deby’s 31-year-old regime and anyone associated with it, including his son, designated his successor.
Idriss Deby was said to have won 79.3 percent of votes cast in the April 11 presidential ballot and postponed his victory speech in favor of visiting soldiers battling rebels on Chad’s northern border with Libya.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Chadian military, General Azem Bemrandoua Agouna, claimed that government soldiers had repelled columns of FACT rebels advancing on the capital, N’Djamena
Chad will hold a state funeral for Idriss Deby next Friday in the capital, N’Djamena where, according to news reports, an uneasy calm had returned Tuesday by close of day.
Security presence is heavy in major towns, notably the capital, where armored vehicles are posted at key road junctions.