With the death of Chad’s President, Idriss Deby, the country has been opened to a new chapter of challenges and uncertainties, especially the succession crisis.
His son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, was immediately named transitional leader as head of a military council after which both the government and parliament were dissolved, but the army vowed “free and democratic” elections after an 18-month transitional period.
One analyst said the country was “entering uncharted territory”. A damaging succession crisis is to be feared, while government forces and rebels have been fighting each other in the north and centre of the country,” said Richard Moncrieff of the International Crisis Group think-tank.
Many Chadians and diplomats are especially worried about the risks of a violent succession crisis now that the President is no longer alive, especially as it is known that many of the challenges and power imbalances that divide the Chadian society are also found within the army.
The rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) is a political-military group mainly based in the northern part of the country, founded by dissident army officers in 2016. It is feared their activities could be more intense with Derby’s death.
Recall that FACT attacked a border post in the north of the country on election day and claimed independence of Chad’s northern Tibetsi region, which is close to the Libyan border.
FACT, based in Libya is made up of the Saharan Goran people, and having a non-aggression pact with warlord Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of the country’s east. They regularly clash with the Chadian army.
They built up their base in Libya in the Tibesti mountains, which straddle northern Chad and part of southern Libya with claims that they have captured garrisons near Chad’s northern borders with Niger and Libya.
The group had advanced hundreds of kilometres south through the vast country in a few days but the Chadian military appeared to have slowed its advance about 300 kilometres (185 miles) from N’Djamena before the death of the country’s president.
Despite all, Chad had the formal structures of a multi-party democratic state. But real power was concentrated firmly at the top, and Déby brooked no serious opposition over his three decades in power.
And several times, he faced down rebellions, sometimes helped by the military intervention of his ally France – which maintains a major regional base in the Chadian capital N’Djamena.
Meanwhile, Deby’s death could pose a serious regional stability challenge and could deprive France and the West of a key security ally in the volatile Sahel region where jihadist groups are gaining in strength, analysts say.
His demise is no doubt a threat to bringing yet more instability to a turbulent region that is of strategic importance as Chad fronts as an important partner of the West in the fight against jihadism in the Sahel.
The 68-year-old contributed men to a UN peacekeeping force, as well as a regional army known as the G5 Sahel, which is backed heavily by French troops.
“Chad is at a critical security crossroads for the whole of the African continent and for many years now has been not just a staunch Western ally but an effective security partner,” said Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow and African expert at the Atlantic Council think-tank.
“Deby had one of the few armies in Africa that was able to project power outside of their borders,” he added.
“It made him the darling of the counter-terrorism community in Africa.”
Peculiar to Nigeria, Chad has also supported in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents which hints at a new dimension going forward.
Even Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Bashir Magashi, confessed that Nigeria would be most hit by death of Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, due to possible influx of refugees.
“So security-wise, we are beefing up all borders to ensure that refugees do not flow into a country,” he stated.