Chad's interim leader Deby confirms plan to run for president

Chad  Arsene Mpiana  AFP
© Arsene Mpiana / AFP

Chad's interim president Mahamat Idriss Deby says he plans to run in this year's long-awaited presidential race, three days after his chief rival was killed in disputed circumstances.

Deby's confirmation on Saturday came at the end of a chaotic week in which opposition politician Yaya Dillo was shot and killed in the capital N'Djamena.

Dillo's death on Wednesday in disputed circumstances has further exposed divisions in the ruling elite at a politically sensitive time as the Central African country prepares for the promised return to democratic rule via the ballot box.

Addressing a crowd of supporters and state officials, Deby announced his candidacy in a speech that made no reference to the recent violence.

"I, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, am a candidate for the 2024 presidential election under the banner of the 'For a United Chad' coalition," he said in a speech. "It is ... with a mixture of honour, humility, responsibility and gratitude that I accept this nomination."

Deby Itno took power in 2021 after his father, veteran leader Idriss Deby Itno, was killed in clashes with rebels.

He had promised a return to civilian rule and elections within 18 months, but his government later adopted resolutions that delayed elections until 2024 and allowed him to run for president.

The date of the presidential elections was announced on Tuesday, barely two months before the vote. 

Deby's uncle arrested

On Friday, the government confirmed that Deby's uncle, General Saleh Deby Itno, had been arrested in the wake of Wednesday's events in which "dozens" of people had been killed or wounded, according to local authorities.

General Itno had recently defected to Dillo's party, the Socialist Party Without Borders.

"He has now been charged by the public prosecutor and his life is in no danger," government spokesperson Abderaman Koulamallah said, without specifying what charges Itno faces.

The state prosecutor, Oumar Mahamat Kedelaye, said at a news conference  on Wednesday that Dillo was killed during an exchange of gunfire with security forces. The Chadian government has accused members of Dillo's party of also attacking the internal security agency.

Chadian rebel group the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) and the CNRD opposition party have described Dillo's death as an assassination. Analysts say the circumstances are unclear.

Rights group Human Rights Watch called on Saturday for a foreign-backed independent investigation into Dillo's killing.

"The killing of a potential presidential candidate during an assault by Chadian security forces on an opposition party headquarters raises serious concerns about the environment for elections scheduled for May 6," HRW said in a statement.

(with newswires)