Chad: Who’s who in Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno’s network?

By Mathieu Olivier

Posted on Tuesday, 7 June 2022 18:10, updated on Tuesday, 11 October 2022 11:38

In power for a little over a year, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno is trying to lead Chad to the presidential elections. He is surrounded by a young guard very involved in political life as well as some elders.

A year ago, when Marshal Idriss Déby Itno had been dead for less than a month, every Chadian was wondering how Mahamat Idriss Déby (who had not yet added Itno to his surname) would govern the country. Given his young age, some assumed he would be a puppet for a system that would somehow survive his father. Others feared that he would become more ambitious with each passing month as head of state.

A majority were waiting to see, watching for missteps and signs – positive or negative. In the end, Itno surprised many. Most of his colleagues, Chadian and foreign, say he is “attentive”, “listening” and committed to the success of the transitional government, which was supposed to last 18 months, but will inevitably be prolonged – the head of state is not solely to blame. The fact is that “Kaka”, as he is nicknamed, knows which people to surround himself with.

On the political and financial level, his “young” guard is always at his side and serves as a relay with the administration and political parties, which were impatiently awaiting the national dialogue that was supposed to take place in May in N’Djamena, before it was postponed. The president of the transitional government also deals with the “elders” of Idriss Déby Itno’s entourage, the army’s supporters, essentially from the Zaghawa and Goran communities, who are crucial to the country’s stability.

He is the presidency’s presiding officer. As private secretary to Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, Idriss Youssouf Boy is his first collaborator and confidant. A former customs officer, he manages the palace’s administration as well as the transitional president’s agenda and has quickly risen within his inner circle over the past year.

This former number 2 of the National Security Agency (headed by Ahmed Kogri at the time) has imposed himself as the key contact for any figure who wants access to Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno. The amount of influence he has is provoking some grumbling among older actors, such as former cabinet director Abdoulaye Sabre Fadoul, who owes his ousting partly to him, and within the Conseil Militaire de Transition.

For a long time, even though this parliament member was officially only number two, everyone knew that he pulled the strings. Since April and Abdoulaye Sabre Fadoul’s resignation, Abdelkerim Idriss Déby has been head of the transitional president’s cabinet. Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno’s half-brother trained at the US military academy of West Point and passed through the ministry of foreign affairs. He is his main point of contact within the political milieu, not only with Albert Pahimi Padacké’s government but also with the parties, notably Haroun Kabadi’s Mouvement Patriotique du Salut (MPS).

At 30 years old, he is already familiar with the Chadian political swamp. Number two in Idriss Déby Itno’s cabinet, he was one of the main organisers behind the campaign for his re-election in 2021, particularly within the youth movements of the MPS, which was in power then. He has held on to these valuable contacts, which make him a central player in the political jousting around the future national dialogue.

He is in permanent contact with the president of the transitional government. A former defence attaché at the Chadian embassy in France, where he forged links with the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure Française (DGSE), Ahmed Kogri has been head of the Agence Nationale de Sécurité (ANS), Chadian intelligence, since 2017. Active at home and abroad, he is in the front line of the crisis in the CAR, the pre-dialogue held in Qatar with political-military groups, and the rapprochement with Israel.

Originally from Faya, this gendarmerie officer has no shortage of detractors within the intelligence service and army – where some of the older officers, notably one of his predecessors, Mahamat Ismaïl Chaïbo, believe he is capable of inflicting great harm. However, thanks to the numerous intelligence files in his possession, he has managed to retain the confidence of Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno and avoid being ousted, despite the rumours circulating last April.

Since becoming head of state, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno has established a relationship based on trust with the transitional government’s minister of finance and budget.

Tahir Hamid Nguilin is one of the few members of Padacké’s team that speaks with the president on an almost daily basis. In his 40s, he trained in Cameroon and at the BEAC, and was director-general of the Treasury, Taxes and then of the Chadian Hydrocarbons Company. He held all the leading positions in the national economy and was then appointed to the government in 2019 by Idriss Déby Itno. He has been entrusted by the head of state to deal in particular with international donors, especially the IMF.

They were the pillars of Idriss Déby Itno’s power and have continued to exert influence in the army and the Zaghawa community since his death. Consulted on all major decisions, these five generals are part of the Conseil Militaire de Transition, the executive body chaired by Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, which meets every week and of which they are the key figures.

Although they are less influential on a day-to-day basis than Idriss Youssouf Boy or Abdelkerim Idriss Déby, they ensure the stability of the Chadian military apparatus. Today, Abakar Abdelkerim Daoud is the army’s general chief of staff, while Mahamat Ismaïl Chaïbo continues to rely on his networks as former director-general of the ANS, as does Taher Erda Tairo, former head of military intelligence, now head of the Direction Générale des Services de Sécurité des Institutions de l’État.

Bichara Issa Djadallah occupies a central place, especially in the country’s relationship with Sudan – his cousin is none other than Mohamed Hamdan Dogolo, vice-president of the Sudanese Transitional Sovereignty Council. Finally, the Toubou Oki Mahamat Yaya Dagache (whose wife is former first lady Hinda Déby Itno’s aunt), Idriss Déby Itno’s former special adviser, has also retained a prominent place. The current head of state is careful not to offend him, just like the other generals.

Although he is not N’Djamena’s best known general, everyone has learned to be wary of him. Idriss Dokony Adiker, minister of public security, jealously guards all the files that affect the country’s internal security, from the police to general intelligence. Originally from Fada, this military man who trained in Zaire and France participated in the rebellion of the Front de Libération Nationale du Tchad (Frolinat) and is also president of Chad’s Olympic and Sports Committee.

He acts as the main intermediary between Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno and the forces of law and order, and in particular, Moussa Haroun Tirgo, the national police’s director-general, who is in the front line of civil society demonstrations, particularly in N’Djamena. Tirgo, who is also a general and respected by the men in the field, has been governor several times, in Logone Oriental, Sila and Mayo-Kebbi.

Although he does not exert as much influence as the generals on the Conseil Militaire de Transition, of which he is not a member, Oumar Souni regularly represents the head of state. Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno is married to his daughter, Dahabaya Oumar Souni, who held a communications position while Idriss Déby Itno was in power, before becoming her husband’s communications adviser during the transition period.

A former commander of Chad’s Garde Nationale et Nomade (GNNT) and the army’s former chief of staff, General Oumar Souni carries considerable weight within the Goran communities, to which he belongs as he is from Ennedi West. Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno regularly consults him in order to maintain good relations with these important figures, who, along with the Zaghawas, are one of the two pillars of Chadian power.

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