Chad’s slain leader Idriss Deby’s son will take over as president in place of his father, according to a charter released on Wednesday by the presidency.
It said General Mahamat Idriss Deby, 37, who on Tuesday was swiftly named transitional leader as head of a military council following his father’s death, will “occupy the functions of the president of the republic” and also serve as head of the armed forces.
The charter repeals the preceding constitution and will be implemented as the “basic law of the republic,” according to its terms. The younger Deby has also been named “supreme head of the armed forces,” it said.
Deby, who ruled with an iron fist for nearly 30 years, succumbed to wounds suffered during a visit to the battlefield where Chadian soldiers fought against a rebel group that had crossed into Sudan from Libya, the military announced on Tuesday.
Mahamat Deby had overseen the president’s security as head of the elite presidential guard (DGSSIE) and had often appeared alongside him. He was also a senior commander of the Chadian forces assisting a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the restive north of neighbouring Mali.
Mahamat Deby signed a decree on Tuesday setting out a military council with 15 generals, including himself and 14 others known to have been part of the late president’s circle of loyalists. The council is tasked with an 18-month transition toward “free and democratic elections.”
The new leader also chairs the “military transition council, the council of ministers, the councils and superior committees of national defence,” according to the charter. He will promulgate legislation adopted by the 69 members of the national transition council, who are named directly by Mahamat.
The Transition Charter, which contains 95 articles, also guarantees “freedom of opinion, conscience and worship.”
A transition government has been set up, whose members are named by the new president.
“The members of the army who are called to the transition government are discharged from all military duties,” the charter said.
Mahamat Deby carries the nickname “Kaka”, or grandmother in Chadian Arabic, after his paternal grandmother who raised him.
“The man in dark glasses”, as he is also known in military circles, is said to be a discreet, quiet officer who looks after his men.
A career soldier just like his father, he is from the Zaghawa ethnic group which boasts numerous top officers in an army seen as one of the strongest in the troubled Sahel region.
“He has always been at his father’s side. He also led the DGSSIE. The army has gone for continuity in the system,” Kelma Manatouma, a Chadian political science researcher at Paris-Nanterre university, told AFP news agency.
However, over recent months the unity of the Zaghawas has fractured and the president has reportedly removed several suspect officers.
With a mother from the Sharan Goran ethnic group, he also married a Goran, Dahabaye Oumar Souny, a journalist at the presidential press service.
She is the daughter of a senior official who was close to former dictator Hissene Habre, ousted by Idriss Deby in December 1990.
The Zaghawa community thus look with some suspicion on Mahamat Deby, some regional experts say.
“He is far too young and not especially liked by other officers,” said Roland Marchal of the International Research Centre at Sciences Po university in Paris.
“There is bound to be a night of the long knives,” Marchal predicted.
Raised in the capital N’Djamena, Mahamat Deby was sent to a military school in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, but stayed only a few months.
Back home in Chad, he returned to training at a military school in the capital and joined the presidential guard.
He rose quickly through the command structure from an armoured group to head of security at the presidential palace before taking over the whole DGSSIE structure.
Mahamat was acclaimed for his combat performance, notably after government forces emerged victorious in 2009 against rebels led by Deby’s nephew Timan Erdimi.
Erdimi’s forces had launched a rebellion in the east and reached the gates of the presidential palace a year earlier, before being pushed back with the help of intervention by former colonial power France.
He finally moved out of the shadow of his brother Abdelkerim Idriss Deby, deputy director of the presidential office, when he was appointed deputy chief of the Chadian army deployed to Mali in 2013.
That mission saw Mahamat Deby work closely with French troops in operation Serval against armed groups in 2013-14.