Recently re-elected president dies of wounds suffered on front line as country’s soldiers battle rebels, army says.
News of Chadian President Idriss Deby’s shock death met tributes and condolences as world powers mourned the passing of an ally seen as critical in the fight against security threats in the Sahel region.
In a statement on Tuesday Chad’s military said Deby died of wounds sustained during a visit to front lines in the country’s north where government troops are battling rebels in the restive border region with Libya.
Deby, who governed the central African country since rising to power in a 1990 coup, had a day earlier secured a sixth consecutive term in office.
His 37-year-old son, four-star General Mahamat Idriss Deby, has been named as the interim leader of an 18-month military transitional council.
Here’s how the world reacted to the news of Deby’s death:
The head of the African Union Moussa Faki Mahamat, a former Chadian prime minister, said he was saddened by Deby’s death, sending his condolences to his family.
“It is with great dismay and deep emotion that I learned of the death today of President Idriss Deby Itno,” said Faki, who was Chad’s prime minister from 2003 to 2005.
He called Deby a “great statesman and recognised military leader. I extend my sincere condolences to the Chadian people and his family”.
France deplored Deby’s passing and said it took note of the creation of an interim military body, urging a quick return to civilian rule and a peaceful transition.
“France lost a brave friend,” President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement. “It expresses its strong attachment to Chad’s stability and territorial integrity.”
After a new transitional military council led by one of Deby’s sons pledged to hold elections in 18 months, French Foreign Minister Le Drian warned that the delay should be “limited”.
The White House offered its “sincere condolences” to the people of Chad on the death of Deby.
“We condemn recent violence and loss of life in Chad,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement.
“We support a peaceful transition of power in accordance with the Chadian constitution.”
The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, expressed his condolences to the family, and to the Chadian authorities and people.
“The EU calls on all relevant actors to act responsibly, the immediate priority being the stability of the country and the region,” Borrell said.
Meanwhile, European Council President Charles Michel said that “the stability, the security and the [territorial] integrity of the country have to be preserved.”
Volkan Bozkir, president of the UN general assembly, tweeted his “most sincere condolences”.
I send my most sincere condolences to the Chadian people on the passing away of H.E. Mr. Idriss Deby Itno, President of the Republic, Head of State, Supreme Chief of the Armies, who had just been re-elected. I will soon convene an #UNGA meeting to pay tribute to his memory.🇺🇳🤝🇹🇩
— Volkan BOZKIR (@volkan_bozkir) April 20, 2021
In neighbouring Mali, also in the throes of a transitional military rule, interim President Bah Ndaw voiced “deep sadness” over the news of Deby’s “brutal death”.
He called it “a heavy loss, not only for Chad for which he made the greatest sacrifice, but for the Sahel region and for Africa,” where the two countries have been allies against threats posed by armed groups.
With his “engagement and vision he contributed to a stronger and united Africa”.
In an official statement, President Mohamed Bazoum and the government in neighbouring Niger hailed Deby’s “personal engagement in the fight against terrorism and for stabilising the Sahel-Sahara region”.
The statement also reassured the Chadian people of Niger’s “commitment to work together with them for the peace and stability of the G5 Sahel States and the States bordering Lake Chad”.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall honoured Deby’s “memory and contribution to stability in the Sahel”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed his condolences on Twitter, praising Deby’s “bold leadership and … his historic decision to renew Chad’s relationship with Israel”.