As Sahara Focus – April 2021 reported, actual events surrounding the 19 April death of Chad’s President Idriss Déby appear to quite different from the official version. According to sources within Chad’s security services, 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 are also alleged to have died in the incident. Similar sources suggest 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 is reported to have been Déby’s ADC, Khoudar Mahamat Acyl. The head of intelligence, General Taher Erda, was not executed but slightly wounded. 

Divisions in the powerful Zaghawa tribe could threaten Chad’s stability

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 US 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. It was he who caught up with and reported on the infamous terrorist, El Para, in northern Chad in 2004. He was responsible for kidnapping 32 European tourists in the Algerian Sahara in 2003 and was allegedly on the run from US 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 and then have killed in an army assault on his home in N’Djamena on 28 February. During the assault Dillo’s mother and son were killed (Sahara Focus, 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 this particular incident.

One 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 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 always likely that member of his own Zaghawa tribe might exact revenge.

Forestier claims 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 therefore seems 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.

This raises a number of very serious issues. It is now increasingly apparent that Macron was implicated in covering up the circumstances of Déby’s death, and then deliberately lying — with the complicity of the French media including Jeune Afrique — he gave Déby’s son time to organise a putsch that was sponsored by the Elysée Palace.

Secondly, if Déby’s death was an act of revenge as now seems likely, it throws an entirely different light on most analysts’ considerations regarding the future stability of Chad and the Chadian army. There are likely to be many within the army siding with Yaya Dillo’s camp and opposed to Kaka’s effective coup d’état. This is a sure recipe for future internal instability and possibly even civil war.

This excerpt is taken from Sahara Focus, our monthly intelligence report on the Sahara region. Click here to receive a free sample copy.