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Chad says opposition leader killed fighting security forces

February 29, 2024

Chad's state prosecutor has said that Yaya Dillo, leader of an opposition left-wing party, was killed during a gunfight with security forces, after an attack at the country's internal security agency.

Chad former presidential election candidate Yaya Dillo gives a press conference on April 30, 2021 in N'djamena.
Chad's state prosecutor said that former presidential election candidate Yaya Dillo (pictured here) was killed in clashes with security forcesImage: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Chad's state prosecutor Oumar Mahamat Kedelaye on Thursday said that Yaya Dillo, the leader of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF), had been killed on Wednesday during an exchange of fire with security forces. 

Two days of fighting in N'Djamena

Heavy gunfire was audible on Wednesday around the area of the PSF headquarters. 

Dillo died "where he had retreated, at the headquarters of his party. He didn't want to surrender and fired on law enforcement," Communications Minister Abderaman Koulamallah said. 

Prosecutor Kedelaye had earlier spoken of "dead including Yaya Dillo" during a security forces operation without detailing the circumstances.

A picture taken through a car window shows Chadian soldiers barring the entrance to the road leading to the headquarter of the Chadian opposition Socialist Party Without Borders' (PSF) in N'Djamena on February 29, 2024.
The road to the PSF party's HQ in the capital N'Djamena was still barred by the military on ThursdayImage: AFP/Getty Images

This followed an attack overnight on Tuesday on the country's internal security agency building in which several people were killed.

Chadian authorities blamed Dillo and the PSF, although Dillo had told the AFP news agency on Wednesday that he was not present at the attack. He claimed the government was trying to intimidate him so that he would not run in elections scheduled for May 6 this year.

The government also accused a PSF member of an "assassination attempt against the president of the supreme court," an allegation Dillo described as "staged." 

The internet connectivity tracking service NetBlocks on Wednesday reported severe disruptions to internet connectivity in the country that it said persisted throughout much of the day.

Reuters news agency cited a witness as reporting a return to relative calm in the capital N'Djamena on Thursday, with a smaller visible military presence but with internet access still not restored.

A picture taken throough a car window shows Chadian soldiers barring the entrance to the road leading to the Presidential Palace in N'Djamena on February 29, 2024.
Guards were still stationed on the road leading to the presidential palace in the capital on Thursday, with traffic cones diverting vehiclesImage: AFP/Getty Images

Cousins and rivals, set to contest election

Yaya Dillo Djerou, 49, was a cousin of transitional President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno. The interim leader took control in Chad in 2021 when his father Idriss Deby Itno was said to have been killed on the front lines fighting an insurgency in the north of the country. 

Dillo and Mahamat Deby Itno would both have contested the election, and the May 6 date had only been made public on Tuesday.

Elections in May would bring an end to roughly three years of effective military rule. Mahamat Deby Itno had originally promised elections and a return to civilian rule within 18 months but later extended the transition period by another two years. Chad last year asked Germany's ambassador to leave the country, prompting Berlin to send Chad's representative home, amid the sluggish transition period.

Who was Yaya Dillo? 

Dillo went from being an armed rebel leader to a Cabinet minister under former President Deby, his uncle, and then an opposition candidate against him.

In 2021, he told France's RFI radio station that he had been attacked by members of the presidential guard, headed by now interim President Mahamat Deby Itno, who he said killed several of his family members including his wife. 

Government forces at the time said they had opened fire after encountering armed resistance. 

Deby's military government is one of several juntas currently ruling in West and Central Africa, where there have been eight coups since 2020. 

msh/wd (AFP, Reuters)