According to a confirmation from the national army of Chad read on national television, the newly re-elected President Idriss Déby has died of wounds he received while commanding his army in battles against rebels in the north.
“The post-Déby era inevitably begins tomorrow,” Albert Pahimi Padacké told us in early April. Less than 10 days later, this sentence, which sounds like an electoral slogan, took on a very special meaning as Idriss Déby Itno (IDI) died on 18 April. Padacké has just recently been appointed prime minister by the National Transitional Committee (NTC), a body headed by Mahamat Idriss Déby, the deceased president’s son.
After IDI’s death, the man who served as his last prime minister before the post was abolished in 2018, was one of the many figures received by the new masters of N’Djamena. The candidate of the Rassemblement National pour la Démocratie au Tchad (RBDT-le Réveil), who came in second in the 11 April presidential election with 10.32% of the vote, met with Déby three times to discuss the country’s future. He was then officially offered the post of prime minister on the afternoon of 25 April.
The demands of our time
“I accepted this appointment because there are moments in life when we must rise to the demands of our time. The situation calls for us to put aside our differences in order to save our country,” he told us.
54-year-old Padacké is a regular in Chadian politics as well as in the back-and-forth between the opposition and the government. Like the oppositionist leader Saleh Kebzabo, he is originally from Mayo-Kebbi West, in the south of the country, and has served as a government minister several times since the 1990s.
Padacké first served as minister of finance, then of trade, before being dismissed in November 1997. In 2001, he became secretary of state for finances and then minister of mines, energy and petroleum, before being elected to represent NDT-Le Réveil in parliament in April 2002.
In 2006, he ran for president and won 7.82% of the vote in an election boycotted by the main opposition parties. He then joined the government as minister of justice and then of post and communication. He then ran again for president in the 2011 presidential election.
Then in February 2016, he became prime minister, replacing Kalzeubé Pahimi Deubet, who had been in office since November 2013.
Padacké met Déby during his time as prime minister. The latter was then head of the Direction Générale de Service de Sécurité des Institutions de l’État (DGSSIE), which includes the presidential guard.
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Padacké’s appointment was decided by the NCT after extensive deliberation. On 21 April, on the eve of the head of state’s funeral, Déby met with party leaders, presidents of institutions, former prime ministers (Delwa Kassiré Coumakoye, Haroun Kabadi, Emmanuel Nadingar, Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet) and former president Goukouni Weddeye.
“His name had been circulating since the beginning of the negotiations that started at the time of the funeral,” said someone opposed to Padacké’s appointment.
“He was not one of the favourites. He lobbied the NCT intensively to get the job,” added a source familiar with the negotiations.
The new prime minister will launch a series of consultations to form a government as soon as possible. “In my opinion, we must form a government of national unity that is as open as possible,” says Padacké.
Does he think he has enough room to manoeuvre? Doesn’t he fear being used by the military, of being their only civilian guarantor? “I would not have accepted the position if I thought the opposite,” he says.
However, he will have to fight to convince people of his good intentions. His candidacy for the last presidential election was criticised by part of the opposition, which accused him of being used by the ruling Mouvement Patriotique du Salut (MPS).
This same opposition does not recognise the NTC’s authority, as it does not believe that the constitutional order has been respected and denounces this “institutional coup d’état.”
“The president of the National Assembly himself explained that he had refused to act as interim president. In such a volatile context, a vacuum would have led Chad to disaster. The military had no choice but to take matters into their own hands,” Padacké said.
“I think he is the right choice. He is young but has enough experience to understand the issues. He will be able to show flexibility. The country is going through an exceptional situation. It is a unique opportunity to bring the country together and to hold this dialogue that Déby has always refused to do so,” said Kebzabo.
“The choice of Padacké is disappointing. It was an unprecedented opportunity to replace those in power, review the system and establish a transition that differs from the previous governments. Instead, a system is being preserved. Mahamat Idriss Déby now risks concentrating all the hatred and opposition towards his father,” says an observer of Chadian political life.
Although he called for IDI’s resignation a few weeks back, Padacké now believes that his sudden death has plunged Chad into the unknown. “I have always called for a change of regime through the ballot box, by democratic means. What is happening now is totally different,” he says. “The context is unstable. It was a rebellion that led to the president’s death.”
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