Idriss Déby Itno died as he came to power. He died as a warlord. President Déby, just re-elected for a new term, was above all a soldier. He was supported by the West and France in particular, despite the authoritarian drift of its regime.
A son of a Zaghawa shepherd, born in eastern Chad, Idriss Déby entered the Ndjamena Cadet officers’ school after his baccalaureate. He obtained a professional military pilot’s license in France that licenses him to transport troops.
Déby later became commander-in-chief of the Chadian Armed Forces of the North. He helped the then rebel, Hissène Habré, to seize power from Goukouni Oueddei in 1982. As a reward for his support to Habré, Déby became a colonel and the deputy chief of staff of the Tchad armed forces. He returned to France for new training at the joint war school.
The break with his friend Hissène Habré came when the latter persecuted Idriss Déby’s tribesmen, the Zaghawa. Idriss Déby went into exile in Sudan, where he created the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), a rebel movement that will become his party.
Overthrow of Hissène Habré
On December 1, 1990, Idriss Déby seized power in Ndjamena with the help of France. Hissène Habré fled to Senegal.
His movement made Idriss Déby’s first appointment as President of the Republic. He was elected in 1996 on a pluralist ballot race. Déby got since re-elected five times after he amended the Chadian Constitution on several occasions in his favour.
Idriss Déby’s regime turned more and more authoritarian. He is cited in the disappearance of his political opponent Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh in 2008. Supporters of Yaya Dillo accuse Idriss Déby of intending to arrest Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh violently before the last presidential election. Of late, Idriss Déby’s power has been undermined by internal divisions.
His regime got several times threatened by rebel groups in 2005, 2006, and 2008. Yet, Idriss Déby retained the support of the West and France, in particular. The Chadian leader was indeed at the centre of the fight against the jihadists in the Sahel.
The self-appointed Marshal “IDI,” as he was nicknamed, died at nearly 69 as a soldier in combat fighting the Front for Alternation and Concord rebellion in Chad (FACTS).
Pinned down by the “Panama Papers” for having embezzled several billion dollars, Idriss Déby failed in 30 years of power to lift Chad out of poverty. Chad has one of the worst indicators of human development, despite oil exploitation since the early 2000s.