Chad’s President Idriss Deby has taken a strong early lead and appeared poised to extend his 30-year rule, partial provisional results of the April 11 presidential election showed, as the United States and the United Kingdom warned of possible violence in the Chadian capital, Ndjamena.
The Independent National Election Commission (CENI) said on Saturday that Deby won a majority in all but one of the 51 departments announced so far, and secured a plurality in the other.
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Results from 61 departments are yet to be announced.
Kilmapone Larme, head of logistics at the CENI, said they had still not received more than 30 percent of the results.
The UK government, meanwhile, said two convoys of a Libya-based rebel group were heading towards the capital. The convoys belonged to the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), which had attacked a border post in the north of the country on election day.
The UK government urged its citizens to leave the country as soon as possible, saying one convoy had passed the town of Faya, some 770km (478 miles) northeast of Ndjamena, while the other was seen approaching the town of Mao, about 220km (137 miles) to the north.
The US also ordered non-essential diplomats at its embassy in Chad to leave the country.
“Armed non-governmental groups in northern Chad have moved south and appear to be heading toward N’Djamena,” the US Department of State said in a travel alert. “Due to their growing proximity to N’Djamena, and the possibility for violence in the city, non-essential US government employees have been ordered to leave Chad by commercial airline.”
FACT is based in Libya, where it has a non-aggression pact with renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar who controls much of the country’s east. Mainly made up of the Saharan Goran people, FACT clashes regularly with the Chadian army.
The AFP news agency reported tanks and soldiers at the northern entrance to the city, while Chad’s army said it had “completely destroyed” a FACT convoy in the north of Kanem province on Saturday afternoon.
Soldiers were searching for the last of the rebels, army spokesman Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a statement read out on national television.
Deby, 68, is an ally of Western powers in the fight against armed groups in West and Central Africa. He is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, but there are signs of growing discontent over his handling of the nation’s oil wealth.
Chad’s government has been forced to cut back public spending in recent years because of the low price of oil, its main export. The measures sparked protests and labour strikes.
Opposition leaders had called on their supporters to boycott last week’s polls.
“Until midday, the polling stations were almost empty in almost all towns in the country but CENI has just concocted fictitious results to deceive Chadians,” Yacine Abderaman Sakine, the head of the opposition Reform Party, told the Reuters news agency on Saturday.
“We do not recognise this result.”