Killed Chad leader’s son takes power as rivals condemn ‘coup’

Chadian president’s son has also taken over as head of transitional military council.

Chad faced an uncertain future on Wednesday as the son of killed leader Idriss Deby took power in what the opposition called a coup.

Western allies who rely on the country’s fight against extremists pleaded for stability.

Deby, 68, ruled the impoverished desert state for three decades before the army announced his death on Tuesday from wounds suffered while leading troops in battle against rebels.

His shock death led to immediate concerns of a power vacuum in Chad, which is in the heart of the troubled Sahel region and is key to the West’s anti-extremist fight.

Deby’s death was announced a day after provisional results declared him the winner of an April 11 election, giving him a sixth term in office.

The outcome was never in doubt, with a divided opposition, calls for boycott and a campaign in which protests were banned or dispersed.

Allies of the late leader moved swiftly to install his son Mahamat Deby, 37, as president and head of a transitional military council, while dissolving Parliament and the government.

They tore up Chad’s constitution and established a “Transition Charter” that lays out basic law for the country of 16 million people, which spans western and central Africa.

The charter issued on Wednesday said that Mahamat Deby, a career soldier like his father who had been head of the presidential guard, will “occupy the functions of the president of the republic” and serve as head of the armed forces.

The transition period is meant to last 18 months and lead to democratic elections, although it can be extended once.

Chad’s main opposition parties denounced an “institutional coup” and called on citizens “not to obey illegitimate decisions” by the military council.

The threat remained from rebels who launched an incursion into the country’s north from Libya on the day of the April 11 election, despite army claims they had been defeated.

The rebel group, known as Fact, told AFP on Tuesday it would pursue its offensive after a pause for Deby’s state funeral on Friday.

“We categorically reject the transition,” Fact spokesman Kingabe Ogouzeimi de Tapol said. “Our troops are en route towards N’Djamena.”

Armed soldiers in fatigues and members of the presidential guard in their red berets patrolled the capital after Deby’s death.

But on Wednesday, banks, markets and most shops were open while the national flag flew at half-staff on public buildings.

A night curfew has been eased and the country’s borders have reopened.

For western countries, particularly former colonial power France, Deb’s death meant the loss of their staunchest ally in Africa’s Sahel, where many extremist groups operate.

France’s 5,100-strong Barkhane anti-terrorist force has its headquarters in N’Djamena, while Chad’s military has led successful raids against extremists.

Deby had in the past gone to the frontlines to lead troops into battle, including during a 2020 raid against the Boko Haram extremist group.

The EU and France, whose President Emmanuel Macron will attend Deby’s funeral on Friday along with 10 other heads of state, have called for a swift, peaceful transition.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said Deby was a “key partner” and had made significant contributions to help “combat terrorism”.

The US urged a peaceful transition that obeys the constitution, in a demand that has already been ignored.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell called for the transition to be “limited” to respect human rights and allow for “new inclusive elections”.

Some analysts expressed concern over whether Deby’s death could start new violence. They said divisions within Chad’s security could emerge, p

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