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Chad junta leader Deby Itno to run for president

March 2, 2024

The interim president has ruled the country since his father died fighting an insurgency in 2021. His main rival, Yaya Dillo, was killed in unclear circumstances earlier this week.

President of Chad's Transition Council Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno looks on as he attends the 63rd Independence Day celebrations in N'Djamena on August 11, 2023.
The junta leader has ruled the country since the death of his father in 2021Image: Denis Sassou Gueipeur/AFP/Getty Images

Chad's junta leader and interim President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno announced he intends to run for president on Saturday, merely three days after his election rival was killed in a reported exchange of fire with security.

"I, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, am a candidate for the 2024 presidential election under the banner of the For a United Chad coalition," the military leader said in a speech.

Deby Itno has been in power since 2021, after his father Idriss Deby Itno died while fighting rebels. The elder Deby Itno had ruled the country for over three decades.

The younger Deby Itno initially promised a return to civilian rule and elections within 18 months. But he later extended the transitional period, prompting brutally-repressed protests in October 2022, which left dozens killed.

Chad forces clash with protesters decrying takeover (2021)

What do we know about the death of Deby Itno's rival?

Deby Itno's presidential bid comes almost unchallenged, after the death of his cousin and prime rival Yaya Dillo, the leader of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF) earlier this week.

Chad's prosecution said Dillo died during an exchange of fire with security forces at the PSF headquarters in the capital N'Djamena.

The incident followed an attack on the country's internal security agency building in which several people were killed. Chadian authorities blamed Dillo and the PSF, prompting a security confrontation at the party's headquarters.

The PSF accused soldiers of shooting Dillo dead at point-blank range in an "execution," while authorities said Dillo "opposed his arrest" and fired on security forces.

Growing 'concern' ahead of key elections

The European Union expressed its deep concern regarding recent violence in Chad ahead of elections. 

"These events undermine the efforts needed to ensure a transparent, pluralist, inclusive and peaceful transition," it said in a Saturday statement.

Human Rights Watch also called for a foreign-backed, independent investigation into Dillo's death on Saturday.

"The circumstances of Yaya Dillo's killing are unclear but his violent death highlights the dangers facing opposition politicians in Chad, particularly as elections approach," said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at HRW.

Before his death, Dillo denied to the French AFP news agency that he was present during the attack on the security building. He claimed the government was trying to intimidate him so that he would not run in elections.

The date of the May 6 elections was only announced on Tuesday, hours before the violence started.

On Friday, Deby Itno's uncle, General Saleh Deby Itno, was arrested in the wake of Wednesday's events. The uncle had recently defected to Dillo's PSF party.

rmt/wd (AFP, Reuters)