Chad’s President Idriss Deby was killed while visiting troops battling rebels in the country’s restive north on Tuesday. 

Chad army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a statement, read on state television, that the Deby “has just breathed his last defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield.”

President Idriss Deby, the son of a herder, had just been elected to his sixth consecutive term as president. He was 68 years old.

Deby was killed in the border region that Chad shares with Libya where Chadian forces were battling Libya-based rebels. The exact circumstances of his death have not been released.

The rebels go by the name of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT). They had attacked a border post in the provinces of Tibesti and Kanem on April 11, the day of the presidential election, in an attempt to overthrow the government.

They were advancing on the capital, N’Djamena, several hundred kilometers to the south. But on Monday, the rebels suffered a major setback as Chadian military forces claim to have killed 300 FACT rebels and captured 150 more. Chad claims this ended the rebels’ offensive. 

Idriss Deby’s Checkered Past

Simluated assault training during Flintlock 2017 in Chad
A Chadian Army soldier pulls security during a simulated assault in Faya-Largeau, Chad as part of Operation Flintlock. Flintlock is an annual special operations exercise. (Photo by Sgt. Derek Hamilton/U.S. Army)

General Agouna said that “more than 300 rebels [were] neutralized” and claimed the lives of “five martyrs” or government troops with 36 more soldiers wounded. If those numbers are true, then it was a huge but pyrrhic victory for Chad in losing President Deby who visited Washington during the Obama administration in 2014. 

Idriss Deby came to power during a coup in 1990. He was a staunch ally of France and other Western nations during the ongoing violence in the Sahel. Nevertheless, there had been growing criticism of his policies, especially in the way he had been handling Chad’s oil resources. 

Deby won the last elections with an overwhelming 79 percent of the vote running on a platform of bringing peace and security to the country.

Yet, many of his critics claim that the election was fraudulent as Deby had initiated constitutional stipulations that would have allowed him to run for president two more times. 

He had put off a victory speech and instead opted to visit the troops on the frontline. 

The Country Faces a Power Vacuum

Flintlock 2017 kicks off in N'Djamena, Chad
A soldier in the Chadian Army stands with his country flag, Feb.27, 2017, during the opening ceremony of Flintlock 17. Flintlock is an annual special operations exercise involving more than 20 nation forces. It strengthens security institutions, promotes multilateral sharing of information, and develops interoperability among partner nations in northwest Africa. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terrance Payton/U.S. Army)

In the wake of President Idriss Deby’s death, Chad’s military has initiated a national curfew and closed the country’s borders. A military council led by the late president’s 37-year-old son Mahamat Kaka Idriss Deby, a four-star general, will replace him, the military announced.

That move has already drawn criticism from many circles. According to many political analysts, this is in violation of Chad’s constitution. The constitution stipulates that the speaker of parliament should take over in the event of a presidential vacancy.

However, the military announced that the legislative assembly and the constitution have been dissolved. “The National Council of Transition reassures the Chadian people that all measures have been taken to guarantee peace, security, and the republican order,” General Agouna added.

Regardless of the circumstances, this will not play out well with France and the West.