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Post Idriss Déby Chad: Unravelling Political Stability

Peculiar to several African states, and Chad among these, political stability never stemmed from democratic institutions. If any, a number of the continent’s states’ political stability has for decades been strongly attached to a strong man and a strong political party.

When he died on the 19th of April 2021, following a rebel attack, Idriss Déby left the country he ruled for over three decades. The late Déby inherited a country rattled by lawlessness and conflict promising lasting stability through establishing a multiparty democracy. Chad remained unstable and undemocratic during his reign. How the landlocked country located at the crossroads of North and Central Africa is now looking in the hands of its current leader the younger Déby namely General Mahamat Idriss Déby?

The power transition from the Déby Snr to the Déby Jr

Right after a controversial election that aimed to extend his 30 years of ruling the now-deceased Marshal Idriss Déby traveled to Chad’s conflicted-ridden North region. This should be in line with intermittent reports that claim the launching of offensives by the most powerful rebel group namely the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT, acronym in French) predominantly active in Libya’s South. Amid Chad held the General election the hostile region regained an increasingly continuous media coverage reporting on assaults by the same rebel group. While the election results announced Déby’s reelection for a new 6 years term Chadians received a piece of breaking news that reported the president’s tragic killing during the conflict citing official accounts.

The military’s announcement that publicized the death of Chad’s incumbent on April 20, 2021, whose new ruling term had just been extended the day before his assassination, coupled with the installation of a transitional government under the Military Transitional Council. The power transition the army informed Chadians and the world was made from the Déby Senior to the inexperienced 37-year-old General Déby Junior. Chadian analysts pointed out that the son’s takeover was inevitable citing observable leading indicators and argued that Idriss Déby’s killing has meant that the obvious expectation came earlier than anticipated.

A Perpetuation of a legacy and the frustrations entailed

Like the elder Déby in the early 90s son Déby inherited criss rattled Chad and a divided military from his father. Referring to this instability and the dire need to unite the nation the new leader tabled a renewable 18-month transition period that would end with the placement of a civilian rule. Despite repeated official claims that the Central African Nation showed progress in achieving significant political stability several others dispute this. The latter argument sounds practical due to the frustrating developments that followed the end of the aforementioned transition period that saw no elections and civilian rule.

On the contrary, in early October 2022, the military-led leadership Déby Jr remains at its helm announced the extension of the transition by additional two years. The new transition period is sanctioned as a nonrenewable but no defined election time has been put insight making the enduring uncertainty more complex. In effect, the 18-month-old Military Transitional Council has been dissolved only to be replaced by the National Transitional Council that authorized him to run for the supreme magistracy in two years. This makes the opportunity to have an introduction of a democratic process that begins with allowing citizens to elect their competent leader and bring about civilian rule. Only the latter could ensure lasting stability as its tools allow the involvement of unarmed political actors of diverse backgrounds. This looks, however, slim in post-Idriss Déby’s Chad leading to a possible worsening of several unresolved crises N’djamina keeps sustaining.

Chad’s predictably worsening instability

Enduring political instabilities spread across Africa’s four corners could empirically be explained and are largely associated with the leading involvement of military approaches. Chad is not an exception to this underlying explanation as far as N’djamina’s lack of progress in bringing democracy-induced civilian rules is concerned. The result has been a renewable political crisis as one authoritarian leader follows another. Currently, two interrelated factors could explain the predictably worsening instability the Central Africa Nation has been experiencing.

First comes the predominantly military approach that defined Chad's politics ever since its independence in the 1960s. Men in uniform never pursued an independent civilian approach to amend domestic political flaws and remained key actors in decisively influencing and deciding Chadian spheres of political, social, and economic life.

This explains what the post-Idriss Déby Chad continues to be over the past few years. The younger Déby simply extends the entrenched military approach his later father applied over the last 30 years. The General’s failure to keep his promises of conducting elections within 18 months and furthering grips on power for additional two years is the precursor of his moves. The fact that he ascended from the military appears to easily undermine the possibility of turning Chad into a democracy that elected civilian rule. As the new military ruler keeps consolidating power the possibility of returning the country to the promised democratic transition will go up in smoke. This only results in more internal crises which in turn widen the preference of security to democracy.

Adding an insult to injury comes the second burning issue. And, that is the ongoing devastating conflict in the adjacent neighboring Sudan. Chad is next to Sudan’s borders whose ongoing political crisis affects most. Political conditions, good or bad, in Sudan, nolens volens, have always affected Chad which shares not only natural borders but also transcending psychological, cultural, historical, and religious commonness.

Over the last month since violence erupted in the capital Khartoum among Sudanese generals who lead the military and a paramilitary force due to an unresolved power struggle, the already destitute Chad is feeling the unfolding humanitarian crisis of the horn. According to the United Nations refugee agency over 60,000 mostly women and Children Sudanese have poured since the conflict broke out into one of the world's hungriest countries. This amounts to the 30% of Sudanese refugees fled to other regional countries. This significantly increases Chad’s vulnerability affecting the fragile politics N’djamina keeps enduring since April 2021.

Sudan’s devastating infight is obviously not confining in Sudan. Reports indicate that the Janjaweed which remains active to this day operates in eastern Chad. The straightforward implication to this will be a reaction of the Chadian government as a response to the request potentially coming from one of the belligerents in Khartoum. The dynamic will result in a significant exacerbation of the unresolved and fragile political condition in Chad.


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