A fresh intelligence report has claimed that the late Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno was assassinated by his kinsmen in a revenge attack. In its Sahara Focus, a monthly intelligence, a political risk consultancy, Menas Associates, said the actual events surrounding the April 19 death of the Chad’s President appeared quite different from the official version.
Déby Itno’s sudden death on April 19, 2021 has created a very dangerous vacuum in Central Africa and the Sahel.
Déby began his career in the military in the early 1970s, in the midst of the first Chadian civil war (1965-1979). He received military training in France and returned to Chad as a pilot. Under the presidency of Hissène Habré, Déby worked his way up in the Chadian army, and together with his brother and cousin, became a leader in the security apparatus of the state.
In 1989, he and his relatives aroused Habré’s suspicion, forcing him to flee for his life. Déby fled to the western province of Sudan, Darfur, where many warriors from his tribe, the Zaghawa, joined him. Sudan under President Omar al-Bashir gave Déby the necessary military support to take over from Habré.
Déby managed to hold on to power for 31 years; a year longer than his Sudanese counterpart, deposed President Omar al-Bashir. During his presidency, he repeatedly faced armed opposition and in 2006 and 2008 armed groups came close to deposing him. There were many factors that contributed to his survival. One of them was undoubtedly the military support Déby received from France and the financial support from other foreign benefactors. Another was the way in which Déby managed relations with his tribe and with his inner circle.
He ensured wealth and a position in power to his close relatives and, whenever possible, rebel leaders in exchange for their loyalty. Also, he cultivated an image of himself as a Zaghawa tribal leader and warrior chief to maintain a semblance of legitimacy.
In Zaghawa culture, the warrior chief is a position worthy of respect. During wartime, the quintessential warrior chief attempts to gain influence through the “patrimonial marketplace” to gain wealth and power until he has no more need for his gun. Déby did just that. When the survival of the Chadian regime was in danger in 2006, Déby sought to revitalise his image as a warrior chief. For example, he adopted an additional name – he took the name Itno, the name of his grandfather, a well-respected tribal leader.
The name means “warrior,” and served as a public reminder that his legitimacy to rule derived from his tribal heritage and his bravery. Furthermore, Déby cultivated this image of bravery by personally joining his troops in battle. Also in his death, Déby was an exemplar of a Zaghawa warrior chief.
The late president was first claimed to have been killed while fighting rebels trying to overthrow his government.
But, in its April Sahara Focus, a monthly intelligence, Menas Associates, while quoting sources within Chad’s security services, claimed that shooting broke out during a meeting attended by the president and some of his generals shortly after Déby had joined his forces at their camp near the town of Nokou, a little to the north-west of Mao.
During the meeting, a row broke out between Déby and some of his army staff, during which firearms were drawn and shots fired, with Déby reportedly being hit in the hip.
At least four officers and bodyguards were also alleged to have died in the incident. Similar sources claimed that Déby’s son, General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, ordered the immediate execution of four Generals.
Although they have not yet been named, one of those either executed or arrested was Déby’s ADC, Khoudar Mahamat Acyl. The head of intelligence, General Taher Erda, was not executed but slightly wounded.
According to the report, “evidence has seeped out to the intelligence sections of the foreign embassies in N’Djamena from the medics and official government coroners who were present at the autopsy.
“This reveals that the bullet that killed Déby was fired either at very close range with a small calibre pistol or a high calibre rifle at short range. He was, therefore, not killed by rebel gunfire, which would have been very distant from Déby’s person.
“Photographic evidence also suggests that he was wounded in the hip and he, therefore, may have been drawing a sidearm.
“Further evidence that Déby died at the hands of one or more of his generals comes from Paris Match. It reported that both the French intelligence authorities and United States (U.S.) AFRICOM, referred to Déby’s death as being in ‘questionable conditions’ with Paris Match suggesting that Déby was ‘fatally injured by several Kalashnikov bullets.”
However, the most authoritative evidence comes from the French journalist, Patrick Forestier, who has particularly insightful connections in the region, the report said.
It was he who caught up with and reported on the infamous terrorist, El Para, in northern Chad in 2004. El Para was responsible for kidnapping 32 European tourists in the Algerian Sahara in 2003 and was allegedly on the run from U.S. forces in northern Chad when Forestier tracked him down.
According to Forestier, one of the military officials who had gathered in Déby’s tent was a cousin of his electoral opponent, Yaya Dillo, whom Déby had tried to arrest but killed in an army assault on his home in N’Djamena on February 28. During the assault, Dillo’s mother and son were killed, according to Sahara Focus of March 2021.
The problem for Déby is that Yaya Dillo was also from his own Zaghawa tribe, which dominates the senior ranks of the army. Following the February attack, many people warned that Déby faced the possibility of revenge attacks by members of the Zaghawa tribe, who might have had split loyalties over the incident.
One of those seeking revenge was an unnamed cousin of Dillo, who was also one of Déby’s generals and who was alleged to have been on the run from Déby’s police. However, according to Forestier, when Déby saw the General’s tempers flared, Déby immediately addressed him as ‘Hey rebel’ and asked him what he was doing at the meeting. The latter accused Déby of being a murderer, which enraged the president who immediately drew his pistol and shot the general at point blank range.
Second Lieutenant Umaru Dillo Djérou, a cousin of the shot general, reportedly then shot Déby and, in the widespread shooting which ensued, several soldiers were killed or wounded, including General Taher Erda, who was slightly injured.
Déby’s death was, therefore, one of sweet revenge because it was predicted that members of his own Zaghawa tribe might exact revenge.
Forestier claimed that the French military forces in Chad had provided Déby with direct electronic communications links to the French military command. Paris was, therefore, immediately informed of Déby’s death.
It was claimed that General Mahamat Idriss Déby (a.k.a. Kaka) — who was allegedly on the battlefield at the time — first heard of his father’s death from the French authorities.
He was in immediate contact with President Emmanuel Macron, who agreed that Kaka should take over as head of the country, and that the circumstances of Déby’s death would be kept secret.