The president of Chad, Idriss Déby, has died of injuries he suffered when he was at the frontline of troops battling a rebel group, the country’s military said on Tuesday Apr. 20.
The 68-year-old was visiting troops in the north of the country fighting rebels from a group called the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) who were trying to overthrow his government and later died of his injuries.
The news of his death on Tuesday came just hours after results showed he had been re-elected for a sixth consecutive term as president. Most of the opposition had boycotted the vote.
Déby was originally scheduled to give a victory speech on Monday to celebrate his victory but instead decided to visit soldiers battling the rebel group, according to his campaign director, the New York Times reported.
Following his death, the government and parliament were dissolved, a curfew was imposed and borders were shut.
His son, 37-year-old Mahamat Idriss Déby, a four star general, was named as the country’s interim leader by the military and will lead an 18-month transitional military council.
His appointment sparked condemnation as it was a violation of the constitution, which specifies that the president of the national assembly or the first vice president should take over upon a president’s death.
The circumstances surrounding Deby’s death remain unclear, with some questioning whether it was a coup, AP reported.
“We’ll never know if he was injured by a rebel bullet or by simply falling from his command car,” an anonymous French official with experience in the Sahel told the New York Times.
Several allies of the country, including France and the African Union, paid tribute to Déby, who worked to secure the stability in West and Central Africa battling against Islamist extremists. A spokesman for French President said that France has lost a “courageous friend,” according to the New York Times.
France and the United States have largely ignored claims that Déby, who has been in power for 30 years, oversees an authoritarian regime, as well as the accusations of human rights violations, due to his support for counterterrorism operations, experts said, according to the Times. Chad’s military forces have been key to the war in the Sahel and the fight against Boko Haram and its splinter groups in the Lake Chad region due to its location.
Deby, who was the commander in chief of the army, seized power in 1990 from his predecessor, Hissene Habré, who was later convicted of committing human rights abuses and jailed for life. Over the three decades, he has fought against numerous threats from armed rebellions with the help of the French forces.