Rebel forces threatened Wednesday to overrun Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, as they set their sights on the country’s seat of power after the battlefield death of President Idriss Déby.
The rebel group who had claimed responsibility for Mr Déby’s death said they will continue to fight and advance towards the capital, a declaration that could potentially open the lid for a bloody battle for political control of the oil-producing country that borders Nigeria’s volatile North-east region.
The group rejected the military’s transition plan which handed power to the 37-year-old son of the late president, Mahamat Idriss Déby, in the interim.
“Chad is not a monarchy. There can be no dynastic devolution of power in our country,” the rebels said in a statement late Tuesday. “The forces of the Front for Change and Concord are heading toward N’Djaména at this very moment. With confidence, but above all with courage and determination.”
The battle against Libya-based fighters of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) took a different turn Tuesday after Chadian military announced that President Idriss Déby died from gun wounds.
Mr Déby, 68, who was on course to begin his sixth term in office after winning a reelection last week, often joined soldiers on the battlefront in his military fatigues.
He survived several coup attempts including one that reached his palace in 2006 before French troops waded in to fend off the onslaught. But, the “Great Survivor” as he was known was not lucky this time.
His death could open a large vacuum in the fight against terror and may affect the international efforts to combat belligerent militants in Africa.
The exact circumstances of Mr Deby’s death remained murky, but observers believe it has all the handwriting of a coup on it: an incumbent leader killed, the constitutional provision for succession violated, the National Assembly dissolved and an interim military council installed.
Opposition politicians have called for a quick return to civil rule.
Reports have also suggested that there is growing disquiet within the large Mr Déby’s family over the military’s “hasty” naming Mr Déby Jr as the country’s interim leader.
The four-star general and head of the Republican Guard in Chad who ultimately becomes Africa’s youngest incumbent head of state is best known as a top commander of the Chadian forces aiding a U.N. peacekeeping mission in northern Mali.
Meanwhile, the military has called for calm, saying it was pressing its offensive against the rebels and pushing them back.
“In the face of this worrying situation, the people of Chad must show their commitment to peace, to stability, and to national cohesion,” army spokesperson, Azem Bermandoa Agouma, a general, said.
Mr Deby’s death could open a large vacuum in the fight against terror and may affect the international efforts to combat belligerent militants in Africa.
Being Nigeria’s neighbour to the North-east where the decade-long war against Boko Haram has not abated, Mr Déby’s passing could spell doom to the collective effort against insurgency in the Lake Chad, SBM Intelligence, a research firm, said Tuesday.
“His passing has left a big gap in a neighbouring country that is likely to have a profound impact on Nigeria’s security,” it wrote. “Nigeria is still reeling from the southward flow of jihadists and ammunition in the wake of Muammar Gaddafi’s death in 2011. The upheaval in Chad is much closer to home and thus potentially much more significant.”
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