The death of Chad’s former president Idriss Déby Itno surprised everyone, from the stunned streets of N’Djamena to the highest summits of African states.
For three weeks, one question had been fuelling many conversations between African presidents. Two heads of state from the Economic Community of West African States expressed their surprise on numerous occasions, in private, about the circumstances surrounding Déby’s death.
A leader from Central Africa also expressed bewilderment. They all wondered how Chad’s former president could have died from wounds received on the front line from rebel troops.
This issue has been at the heart of the information campaign that the African Union (AU) has just conducted in N’Djamena, under the leadership of the Peace and Security Council, led by Nigeria’s ambassador Bankole Adeoye and Djibouti’s ambassador Mohamed Idriss Farah.
According to our information, the Chadian authorities continue to insist that Déby died from wounds sustained in combat on the front line. This sequence of events was reportedly told to the many diplomats, notably from the AU and the UN, that met on several occasions with Mahamat Idriss Déby, head of the national transitional committee and the deceased’s son.
Earlier, we were able to corroborate details surrounding Déby’s death, which was announced on 20 April. However, new information has since emerged.
Wounded by a bullet, along with his aide-de-camp
Déby left N’Djamena at 10pm on 17 April in a Toyota armoured vehicle – a type of pick-up truck that Chad regularly imports from Dubai – and arrived on the front line in the north of Kanem in the early hours of 18 April. That same day, after meeting with some of his generals, Chad’s former president was caught up in a clash with the insurgents of the Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad, who had come down from the Libyan border.
Some of them had already confronted the troops led by Mahamat Idriss Déby, commander of the Direction Générale de Service de Sécurité des Institutions de l’État, on 18 April. However, one division managed to remobilise and lead an offensive towards the lines held by Idriss Déby Itno.
Engaged in combat in an armoured vehicle, Itno was attacked by the rebels, who were armed with Russian weapons that they got in Libya. Déby was accompanied by Moussa, who was one of his aides-de-camp and also the son of the president’s sister. Despite the armour, several bullets managed to hit the occupants of the vehicle. Both the aide-de-camp and Déby were hit.
According to our sources, he was shot – or hit by shrapnel – in his kidney and right arm. The fighting continued in the vicinity, but the driver was both shocked and stunned. Khoudar Mahamat Acyl, the president’s other aide-de-camp and brother of the former first lady Hinda Déby Itno, was in a nearby pick-up.
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The driver of Déby’s vehicle took a few minutes to regain his senses and managed to move his passengers out of the combat zone.
He took the wounded leader and his aide-de-camp to the back, where several generals and part of the state officials were gathered. Déby, who was losing a lot of blood, got out of the vehicle. His doctor, Hassan Mahamat Hassan, quickly saw the seriousness of the injury.
The former head of state’s entourage then informed the air force commander, Amine Ahmat Idriss, and Mahamat Idriss Déby about the situation. They decided to carry out an emergency evacuation by helicopter, with the doctor’s consent.
A helicopter was not far from Mao, about 40km from the Nokou camp, where the former president was. Déby was unconscious and had not spoken a word since he was injured. However, the rapid evacuation was not enough, as he succumbed to his injuries before he could be taken back to N’Djamena. His nephew also died, while the driver was unharmed.
The former president’s body was taken to the capital on the night of 18 April. Only his family and most loyal top brass were told of the events that had taken place far from N’Djamena.
They decided to delay the announcement of his death, which was not made public until more than 24 hours later, in the late morning of 20 April. In the meantime, the family of the deceased met for several hours. They decided in the late afternoon of 19 April, after consulting with high-ranking generals, to entrust the transition government to Mahamat Idriss Déby.
At around 8pm, Haroun Kabadi, the president of the national assembly, was informed of the events that had taken place and was summoned to the presidency. He fell ill when he learned of the former president’s death and officially declined to take charge of the transition government, which – according to the constitution – should have been his responsibility.
An hour later, the electoral commission, which had not been informed of his death, announced Déby as the winner of the presidential election that took place on 11 April. At the headquarters of the Mouvement Patriotique du Salut, the leaders of the ruling party celebrated the victory, not knowing that their leader had died and that the sixth presidential term for which they had campaigned would not take place.
They did not know it yet, but in fact, another Déby was already in charge.
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