Chad junta chief to contest May 6 presidential election

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By Agence France-Presse

N’DJAMENA — Chad junta chief Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno said Saturday he would contest a May 6 presidential election, just three days after his chief rival was killed under murky circumstances.

“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.

Deby Itno took power in 2021 after his father, veteran leader Idriss Deby Itno, died while fighting rebels. The iron-fisted ruler had led the Sahel country for more than three decades.

Deby Itno had been proclaimed transitional president by the junta and had promised a return to civilian rule through elections to be held within 18 months. However, he subsequently extended the transition by two years.

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

Deby Itno, 39, is almost certain to win, given that his main challenger has been assassinated and the opposition has been muzzled and repressed, AFP reported.

On Wednesday, Deby Itno’s cousin and main political rival, opposition leader Yaya Dillo Djerou, was killed after troops surrounded the office of his ‘Socialist Party Without Borders’ party in the capital N’Djamena.

His party accused soldiers of shooting him dead at point-blank range in an “execution” before the presidential election, in which he planned to challenge Deby.

The government has rejected the accusations, saying Dillo Djerou “opposed his arrest” and fired on security forces.

Speaking on Wednesday from the foreign ministry headquarters and surrounded by troops, Deby Itno claimed that when he seized power in 2021, the army had “saved the country from the abyss and from chaos.”

Dressed in all-white, he was cheered by hundreds of representatives of the political groups that make up ‘For a United Chad coalition.’ The coalition claims it comprises some “221 parties.”

Rights group, Human Rights Watch, on Saturday called for a foreign-backed independent investigation into Dillo Djerou’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.

“The circumstances of Yaya Dillo’s killing are unclear but his violent death highlights the dangers facing opposition politicians in Chad, particularly as elections approach,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at HRW.

Dillo Djerou until his death told AFP that people wanted to “physically eliminate me” ahead of the vote. There has been no word yet from authorities on whether investigations would be carried out.