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Chad transitional ruler inaugurated amid legitimacy concerns


Chadian President-elect Mahamat Idriss Deby arrives for his inauguration at the Palace of Arts and Culture in N'Djamena, Chad, on May 23, 2024.
Chadian President-elect Mahamat Idriss Deby arrives for his inauguration at the Palace of Arts and Culture in N'Djamena, Chad, on May 23, 2024.

Newly inaugurated Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Deby said Thursday he will preserve national unity and territorial integrity; respect his country's constitution; promote democracy, freedoms and liberties of all Chadians; and make sure all citizens have equal access to justice.

Deby’s inauguration in N'Djamena, the capital of the central African state, ends three years of military transition and a return to constitutional order. But some doubt the legitimacy of Deby’s electoral victory.

Speaking at his inauguration to several thousand citizens, government troops and invited guests from at least 45 countries, Deby said his immediate task is to reconcile differences among all Chadians, especially opposition parties that claim they won the May 6 presidential election.

He called on Chadians who have lived in exile for several years to return home, help develop the country and participate in democratic processes without fear.

Deby said he will promote a just and equitable society and promised to organize local and legislative elections soon, but he did not say when.

Chad's Constitutional Council declared Deby the winner of the presidential election with 61% of the vote. Opposition parties contested the results and accused Deby of rigging the vote, a claim Deby described as unfounded.

Max Kemkoye, spokesperson for the Consultation Group of Chad Political Actors, or GCAP, a grouping of opposition parties Deby has called radical, accused the new president of using the military to prolong his family’s rule, which has had a firm grip on power since his father, Idriss Deby Ino, took over in a 1990 coup.

He said Deby had the military intimidate people from protesting what they consider a stolen victory. Civilians said heavily armed troops were deployed all over N'djamena during Deby's inauguration to stop possible protests.

Deby took power when his father was killed while fighting northern rebels in 2021. The younger Deby promised to hand power back to civilians within 18 months. He also told the opposition and the African Union that he would not stand for election as president.

But Deby extended the transition period by two years, and in March officially announced he would run for the top office.

Chad's opposition and some civil society groups said they were surprised that regional groups such as the Economic Community of Central African States and the African Union sent representatives to the inauguration.

Yamingue Betinbaye, a political analyst at the University of N'djamena, told VOA via a messaging app that the opposition expected more support because the AU Peace and Security Council has expressed concerns over the transitional government’s refusal to respect an October 2022 decision by the country's Inclusive and Sovereign National Dialogue that leaders of the transitional government should not take part in elections.

Betinbaye said the AU should have noted that Chadian officials disrespected human rights and failed to ensure that all perpetrators of human rights violations are brought to justice, as recommended by the African Union.

Among the several dozen senior officials who represented their countries at Deby's inauguration were Gabon's transitional president, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, Nigeria's Bola Tinibu, Togo's Faure Gnassingbe, Burundi's Evariste Ndayishimiye, Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo of Guinea-Bissau and Faustin-Archange Touadera of the Central African Republic.