/ 3 May 2024

Chad leader has daddy issues

The government of President Idriss Deby in Chad blocked citizens’ internet access for 16 months.
Idriss Déby, the president of Chad. His son Mahamat Déby is set to be the next name on the presidential ballot.

For the past three decades, one name has always been on the Chadian presidential ballot — and has always been announced as the winner: Déby.

First, it was Idriss Déby. Come the election on 6 May, it will be Mahamat Déby.

When Idriss Déby died fighting rebels in April 2021, his son, Mahamat, was handed the presidency and is now seeking to legitimise his rule. Nine other candidates are challenging him. Nonetheless, he is very likely to win, having sidelined his critics and opponents.

Key among them was his cousin, Yaya Dillo, who was killed on 28  February during clashes between security forces and members of his Socialist Party Without Borders. State security had accused Dillo of leading an attack on the headquarters of the intelligence service in N’Djamena, but he denied this.

Mahamat Déby insists Dillo was not deliberately assassinated and says he is open to an international investigation. Dillo had been a thorn in the side of Déby senior, too, running against the late president in the 2021 election. At that time, he survived a raid by security forces on his home — but his mother, his son and at least five other people were killed.

Threats and criticism that dogged the elder Déby’s rule still prevail in Chad: rebels are waging an insurgency from neighbouring countries, political opposition faces constant threats and intimidation, and the nation is divided. The upcoming election has stirred a complex mix of passion, hope, suspicion and cynicism.

The only meaningful contender against Mahamat is his prime minister, Succès Masra, who joined the military government this year, after leading deadly protests against it in October 2022.

For some, his decision to join Déby’s government reduced his credentials as one of the few bulwarks against the political status quo. But it is also a practical way of steering the election by managing the government tasked with organising it.

Masra’s candidacy has attracted support from Chad’s youth. In the economist-turned-leader of the Transformers party, they see hope for a new generation of political leaders who will promote transparency, democratic governance and socio-economic development. He has also pledged to fight corruption, promote education and employment and consolidate national unity.

International observers and human rights organisations are monitoring the electoral process, fearing rights violations and political manipulation. Nonetheless, many Chadians will turn up on 6 May to make their voices heard at the ballot box — even as the state prepares to inaugurate another Déby.

This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly  newspaper produced in partnership with the Mail & Guardian. It’s designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here