As President of Chad for 30 years, Idriss Déby, who died at 68, was everything a leader should not be. Corrupt, opportunistic and driven by glory, it ruled Chad for more than half of its tumultuous 61 years since independence in 1960, leaving behind an impoverished country.
Beginning in 1990, when his guerrilla force, wrapped in desert headdresses, marched towards the capital, N’Djamena, from the neighboring Darfur region of Sudan, completing the overthrow of their then chief and mentor Hissène Habré, who had ruled Chad. since 1982, Déby had been in power. like an emperor, controlling all aspects of the country.
To gain international acceptance, he abolished Habré’s one-party system and began organizing regular multi-party elections. But only he could win the presidency, and only his guerrilla army, the Movimiento Patriótico de Salvación, which was transformed into a political party, could be elected to parliament.
Similarly, Déby allowed the press to print freely as long as it was not criticized. Everything else remained as it was under Habré. He changed the constitution twice to allow himself to stay in power until 2033 and squandered Chad’s wealth. According to the US Department of Justice, Déby personally received large bribes from foreign investors, including $ 2 million from a Chinese-owned energy company.
His kleptocracy was perhaps best known for its nepotism. Of his many known sons, Déby made five army generals and elevated another six to the rank of army colonel. He named nine more to Chad’s most sensitive and lucrative portfolios, including the chief of intelligence, and named his older brother, Daoussa Déby Itno, post minister; the youngest of his male siblings, Saleh, was Chad’s chief of customs. His nephew, Ahmat Youssouf Itno, served as chief of military intelligence.
The first lady, Hinda Acyl, who was one of his eight known wives, served as his private secretary, a role that her late son Brahim Déby had played before her. Hinda’s nine brothers and sisters also had influential roles in Chad, including Khoudar Mahamat Acyl as minister of aviation, Ahmat Khazali Acyl as minister of education, and Mahamat zène Hissein Bourma as chief secretary.
Many of these posts put Déby family members close to Chad’s sources of wealth. Its vast deserts cover untapped uranium reserves and it pumps 130,000 barrels of oil a day, generating billions of dollars in revenue. However, Déby squandered those riches by pouring them into his military operations. In a country of 15 million there are only a few hundred qualified doctors, while 70% of Chadians cannot read or write and 80% live on less than a dollar a day.
Despite this, there was no reaction from the United Nations or the African Union. Indeed, every time the Chadians rose up and tried to overthrow him, as they did in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2019 and last month, France, which considered him one of its most loyal allies, intervened, often by sending planes. of combat.
In return, Déby contributed troops to the French-led UN peacekeeping mission in northern Mali, as well as to the tri-border region of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, where fighters linked to Al Qaeda they are expanding their influence. Déby also contributed troops to fight against Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants, establishing himself as a paid military man in the Sahel region.
Born in Berdoba, a remote desert village in the northeast of what was then French Equatorial Africa, Déby was the son of poor shepherds who made their living in the desert. After attending the Koranic school in Tiné as a child, he studied at the école Française in Fada, then at the Franco-Arab lycée in Abéché and later at the Lycée Jacques-Moudeïna in Bonghor. After graduating from high school, he joined the army in 1975 and was sent to France, where he graduated as a paratrooper and pilot.
When he returned in 1979, Chad was in the middle of a civil war between the Christian south and the Muslim north. He was immediately joined by Habré, a notorious warlord and fellow Northerner. Three years later, in 1982, Habré overthrew President Goukouni Oueddei, and as a reward for his support, Habré made Déby his deputy army chief. When Habré became an international pariah for ordering the murder of more than 40,000 Chadians (crimes against humanity for which he was convicted in 2016 in Senegal), Déby tried to stage a coup. But he failed, forcing him into exile in 1989 and ending up in Sudan.
With the backing of France, Déby created the Patriotic Salvation Movement and marched on N’Djamena in 1990. With the victory he pledged himself as an ardent apostle of Françafrique (advocating close ties with France). From his palace in N’Djamena, he hired his army, which was dominated by his Zaghawa tribe, to the highest bidder, waging wars and conquests for people like François Bozizé in the neighboring Central African Republic and beyond in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. . As a result, Déby’s influence far exceeded what might have been expected of the head of state of an arid and landlocked nation.
After Déby’s death during a battle against rebel forces near Chad’s sensitive northern border with Libya, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France had “lost a brave friend”. However, there was a less obvious sentiment in the country of his birth, where Déby’s four-star general son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, 37, launched a coup even before his father was buried, dissolving the government. and declaring himself president of the Republic. next 18 months in violation of Chad’s constitution.
Déby is survived by at least eight wives, Hadja Halimé, Zina Wazouna Ahmed, Anda Ali Bouye, Souad Zakaria Abdallah, Haoua Toldjei Tchou, Acheick Oumar, Hinda Acyl and Amani Musa Hilal, and at least 24 children.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism