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Nigeria: Chad blowback will hurt fight against Boko Haram

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

By Jude Michael
Posted on Monday, 3 May 2021 12:28

Chad Crisis
As protests grow against the military take-over since President Déby died, will Chad keep focused on its regional security role? (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

More than a week after the death of President Idris Déby Itno, the rebels who killed the Chadian strongman are not relenting their fight as they continue to engage troops in the northern Kanem region, around 330km from Nigeria’s border communities. Experts are concerned about the growing political instability in Chad disrupting the Sahel security apparatus, with Nigeria among the hardest hit. But the Nigerian army tells The Africa Report not to worry, because it will 'fill the gap' left by the death of Déby in the regional security calculus.

With Boko Haram waving a black flag in Niger State and Nigeria’s security forces stretched like never before, what impact will the death of the Chadian president have on Nigerian security?

“Under Déby’s leadership, the Chadian army was crucial to the fight against the Boko Haram factions,” says Nnamdi Obasi, Senior Adviser on Nigeria at the International Crisis Group, who adds that “Déby’s death is certainly a hard blow to the multinational efforts for both security and development cooperation in the Lake Chad region.”

Déby’s regional role

Déby, who had just received a fresh mandate to extend his 30-year rule before his death, was a fighter. Taking power in 1990 after rebelling against President Hissène Habré, he re-engineered the constitution in 2005 to be able to stay in power for as long as he wished.

He was the keystone of the Sahel’s security architecture, the Lake Chad Basin and even the greater sub-Saharan region. The irony of his death: while he was a formidable force outside Chad, he fell to an internal rebellion while leading his troops to fight the Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad (FACT) some 300 kilometres north of the capital N’Djamena.

In mourning Déby, African neighbours extolled his commitment to peace in the subregion; Cameroon’s President Paul Biya said his death was an “immense loss for Central Africa and our continent” while Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari described the 68-year-old as “a friend of Nigeria who had enthusiastically lent his hand in our efforts to defeat the murderous Boko Haram terrorists.”

Marshal Déby pushed Chadian troops to crush Boko Haram

Déby saw himself as a soldier more than a politician, and, in August 2020, was awarded the honorary title of Field Marshal in recognition of his commitment to leading counter-offensives against “enemies of the state”, including the Boko Haram Jihadist group.

According to Mbaindangroa Djekornondé Adelph, a political scientist and journalist based in Chad, Déby was on all fronts of war against jihadist terrorism.

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