Chad’s President Idriss Deby has died while visiting troops on the front lines of a fight against northern rebels, an army spokesman said on Tuesday, 20 April.
Deby’s death comes just one day after he was declared the winner of the sixth term in office, marking over 30 years in power.
Deby postponed his victory speech to supporters and instead went to visit Chadian soldiers battling rebels, according to his campaign manager.
Rebels based in Libya had attacked a border post on Monday and advanced hundreds of kilometres south across the desert. Following the clashes, Chad’s army said it had killed 300 rebels and quashed the offensive.
Deby, 68, began his 30-year rule of the country in 1990 and is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
On April 11, Deby won over 79% of the vote. His long rule in the region’s harsh political sphere has made him a strong figure in the French-led campaign against jihadist insurgents in the Sahel.
Last August, the National Assembly named Deby the first field marshal in Chad’s history, after he led an offensive against jihadists in the west of the country.
Meanwhile, A transitional military council is established in Chad, headed by Lt.-Gen. Mahamat Idriss Deby, the son of late president Idriss Deby, the Al Wihda newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The military plans to publish a “transitional charter” soon.
Chad declared a two-week national mourning period after the president’s death and imposed a curfew from 18:00 p.m. local time until 05:00 a.m.
In addition, the military decided to close land and air borders “until further notice.”
The AFP reported earlier in the day that Deby, who commanded an army unit during hostilities against the rebels in Chad’s north, died.
A source confirmed to Sputnik that the president was critically injured during the clashes and died later in a hospital.
Mahamat previously served as the second in command of the Armed Forces for the Chadian Intervention in Northern Mali (FATIM).
On Feb. 22, he led his army against rebels in the Adar al-Ifoghas mountains in Northern Mali leading to the Battle of al-Ifoghas.
They eliminated a rebel base said to be of “significant importance”, inflicting heavy losses upon the rebels but also losing twenty-six men in the process, including Abdel Aziz Hassane Adam, a commander of special forces.
Mahamat took full command of the FATIM and has since been leading operations against rebels in the North.
For now, the constitution has been suspended, according to reports from Radio-France Internationale. A military council will take over in the interim, under the leadership of General Mahamat Kaka, otherwise known as Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, the son of Idriss.