Chad President’s Son Takes Power as U.S. Urges Lawful Transition

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The son of Chad’s three-decade ruler Idriss Deby took control of the oil-producing nation following the death of his father, as the U.S. called for a lawful transition of power.

General Mahamat Idriss Deby will head a 15-member military council that will lead the country for the next 18 months, army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said on state television. The announcement circumvents the central African nation’s constitution, which requires elections to be held within 90 days in the event the president’s post becomes vacant.

“We support a peaceful transition of power in accordance with the Chadian constitution,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Idriss Deby died Tuesday of injuries sustained in a battle against rebels, Agouna said. His death at the age of 68 came shortly after he secured a sixth term as president in disputed elections that were preceded by a crackdown on anti-government protests. The credibility of the vote was called into question after the Supreme Court barred seven opposition candidates from running and three others later quit the race.

Debt Prices

Claims over Chadian debt traded on the secondary market fell to about 40 cents on the dollar on Tuesday, from about 60 cents before, said a person familiar with the matter. The decline reflects concern of increased instability in the wake of Deby’s death that could hamper oil production and impair negotiations with creditors about restructuring the nation’s debt.

Chad last year became the first nation to request relief under the Group of 20 common framework, which aims to gather Chinese and private lenders into a global debt-relief push. Its publicly guaranteed loans stood at about $2.8 billion at the end of 2019, with commercial credit from commodity trader Glencore Plc accounting for 39% of that amount, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Chad pumps about 127,000 barrels of oil a day, making it the seventh-biggest producer in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. It’s ranked as the world’s third-least developed by the United Nations Development Program and two-thirds of the population in N’Djamena, the capital, aren’t connected to the power grid.

Rebel Battle

Deby became president of the former French colony in February 1991 after leading a rebellion against autocratic leader Hissene Habre. A group of Libya-based rebels, known as FACT, the French acronym for the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, and largely comprised of army dissidents, has been fighting to overthrow Deby’s administration since 2016.

On April 16, two FACT convoys advanced toward the capital. They clashed with government forces the following day, according to state-run broadcaster Tele Tchad, leading to the deaths of more than 300 rebels and five soldiers.

“The Marshal of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno, did as he does whenever the state is seriously threatened, he took charge during the heroic fight waged against the terrorist hordes from Libya,” the military council said. “He was injured in the clashes and his soul left his body as he was repatriated to N’Djamena.”

The council’s account couldn’t be independently verified, and it was unclear why Deby had gone to the battle front.

While the government said it had repelled the rebels, FACT leader Mahamat Mahdi Ali told Radio France Internationale late Monday they had made a tactical withdrawal.

Chad has been a key contributor of troops to a multinational effort to defeat Islamist militants in West Africa’s Sahel region. Increased instability at home could result in the government repatriating some of the forces deployed in the fight against the insurgents, which in turn could delay plans by France to withdraw its forces from the conflict.

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