Chad: The late president Déby’s sons launch diplomatic efforts to win over African heads of state

By Jeune Afrique

Posted on Wednesday, 12 May 2021 17:16
Mahamat Idriss Déby, at the funeral of Chad’s late president Idriss Déby Itno, on 23 April. Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS - RC2W1N98Q4NP

Since the establishment of Chad’s transition government, Mahamat and Abdelkerim Idriss Déby have been conducting an intense diplomatic campaign.

On 10 May, Mahamat Idriss Déby left N’Djamena for Niamey, where he met with Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum that morning.

The President of the Conseil Militaire de Transition (CMT) was accompanied on this first official trip abroad by defence minister Daoud Yaya Brahim and General Mahamat Ismaïl Chaïbo. Both are generals and were loyal to Chad’s deceased former president Idriss Déby Itno (IDI).

Bazoum was accompanied by the ministers of foreign affairs and defence, Hassoumi Massaoudou and Alkassoum Indatou, respectively. According to our information, Déby and Bazoum took stock of the security situation in Chad and along the border with Niger, the region through which large numbers of rebel troops from the Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad (FACT) had passed in mid-April.

Libya and G5 Sahel on the agenda

After fighting in Kanem (western Chad), some of the Chadian insurgents managed to flee to Niger. The head of the CMT, who is taking the leadon military issues, stressed to Bazoum the need for N’Djamena to cooperate with Niamey, especially in terms of intelligence, on the thorny issue of Chadian rebel groups present on the border with Libya.

In addition, Bazoum is one of the two heads of state – along with Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani – tasked by the G5 Sahel regional force to mediate Chad’s transition.

Déby also reiterated his country’s commitment to keeping its contingent in the joint Sahelian force (especially in the so-called triborder zone) and the UN mission in Mali.

According to our sources, the head of the CMT made the same speech in N’Djamena – and on several occasions since he took office – before the heads of state of the sub-region, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and the UN special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif. He told each of them that Chad would honour the commitments that IDI had made to combat terrorism.

Abdelkerim Idriss Déby, another son on a diplomatic tour

Beyond purely security issues, the new authorities in N’Djamena have embarked on a diplomatic campaign to reassure influential African heads of state of the transitional government’s success as well as it willingness to hold free and transparent elections in less than 18 months. Abdelkerim Idriss Déby, deputy chief of staff in the presidency and Déby’s half-brother, is in charge of this diplomatic tour.

This graduate of West Point military academy in the US, who worked in the foreign affairs ministry before taking the reins of the presidency under IDI, met with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on 6 May. And on the following day, he sat down with Republic of Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso and Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, who had an excellent relationship with IDI.

These three heads of state did not attend IDI’s funeral on 23 April and were unable to make contact with Déby, unlike Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé, Guinea’s President Alpha Condé, the DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi, the CAR’s President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Mali’s President Bah N’Daw, Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, Bazoum and Ghazouani.

The transitional leaders hope to get as much support as possible from these African heads of state. Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) has yet to decide whether to apply sanctions to N’Djamena, as this could lead to Chad being suspended from the African organisation. The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) met on 10 May to review the findings of a mission to Chad in late April. While some Southern African countries wanted sanctions to be applied, the majority of PSC members seemed more lenient.

On the economic front, the transitional authorities and prime minister Albert Pahimi Padacké’s government are trying to win over donors.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has temporarily suspended its activities in N’Djamena. Economy minister Issa Doubragne is working to reassure Ali Lamine Zeine, the AfDB’s representative in Chad. Finance minister Tahir Hamid Nguilin is talking to the IMF as well as its other donors.

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