The silence stretched on for a long time. Mahamat Idriss Déby, who was standing under the three imposing chandeliers present in the council of ministers room, knew that the moment was solemn. Crucial even. Still in uniform, with his four general’s stars pinned to his chest, the president of the Conseil Militaire de Transition (CMT) observed the men and women gathered on either side of the long table framed by tricoloured Chadian flags.
Some of the members of the transitional government who were appointed on 2 May looked tense, while the more experienced ones appeared to be less anxious. The minute of silence in honour of former president Idriss Déby Itno, who died on 18 April, was not yet over. Déby had carefully prepared a speech for his first major appointment as head of state.
He knows that he has been observed and analysed ever since he came to power following his father’s death. Déby, while listening to his visitors, reflected on the fact that he has been under pressure internationally ever since he was questioned in N’Djamena by an opposition that saw his seizure of power as a ‘family coup.’ His generals reminded him of the country’s security issues while diplomats spoke of international commitments. Politicians used the words “loyalty”, “openness” and “dialogue.”
Often silent, he went from one meeting to another, while keeping one watchword in mind: reassurance. “No”, Chad does not intend to recall its G5 Sahel contingent. “Of course”, a dialogue will be organised during the transition period. “Yes”, democratic elections will be organised within 18 months at most.
“Get to work quickly”
When the minute of silence ended, Itno’s shadow faded away and political discussions resumed once more. On 6 May, the agenda was quite light: the only item was a 1-hour ‘presentation’ by his council. Chad’s prime minister Albert Pahimi Padacké underlined the stakes. His team, he insisted, has “one imperative”: “success for a united, stable and peaceful Chad.”