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Chad: Six things to know about the rebel group FACT

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Chad: The end of an era

By Anne-Marie Bissada
Posted on Friday, 23 April 2021 00:32, updated on Monday, 26 April 2021 12:03

U.S. says Chad rebels heading towards capital from north
People drive past a Chad army tank near presidential palace, as fighters from the rebel FACT appeared to be moving toward the capital according to the United States, in N'djamena, Chad April 19, 2021. REUTERS/ Stringer

The death of Chad’s President Idriss Déby Itno came as a surprise, given his resilience and cat-like ability to avoid near-death experiences in the past. But the group being blamed for his death is Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad (FACT). They are not a well-known rebel group, but they have been around. Here are some facts on FACT.

There is a lot of speculation about the circumstances surrounding Déby’s death. The government’s official line is that he was killed fighting rebels. The day Déby’s death was announced, certain news articles and social media posts jumped the gun, stating he was killed by Boko Haram.

However, in this case, the Nigeria-based Islamist group does not seem to be the culprit.

The day before Déby’s death was confirmed, the head of FACT, Mahamat Mahadi Ali, was in an interview with Radio France Internationale describing Déby’s presence at the front lines in the centre-west of the country over the weekend.

Interim President Mahamat Idriss Déby will “need to move quickly and decisively to keep the rebels quiet,” says our source.

It was there, during a battle to push back the rebel group from advancing towards the capital, that he was hit, the government says.

1. How long has FACT been around?

The group has officially existed since 2016, but many members including its leader have been involved in whipping up rebellions, all with the same aim: ridding Chad of Déby.

The FACT leader “is a long-term political figure from Chad,” says Daniel Eizenga, a research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Ali lived “in France for many years”, says Eizenga.

When Déby became president in 1990, it ushered in what would become a turbulent period. “But he was able to consolidate control, particularly over different armed groups from the north and east.” This moment was the calm before the storm.

“By the mid-2000s, there were a number of different rebel groups that were opposed to Déby’s regime, some of whom were actually family members of Déby, and most of them were based in western Sudan in the Darfur area,” says Eizenga.

Ali was part of one of those groups, where he floated in and out of different positions.

2. Is FACT affiliated with other rebel groups?

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