France’s foreign minister is defending the takeover of Chad’s government by a transitional military council.
Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a television interview Thursday that “exceptional circumstances” made it necessary for Chad’s military to dissolve the National Assembly and form an 18-month transitional council, following the death of President Idriss Deby this week.
The speaker of the National Assembly should have become president under Chad’s constitution, but speaker Haroun Kabadi issued a statement that he agreed with the council’s takeover “given the military, security and political context.”
Le Drian said Kabadi’s position justified the military taking control.
The council named Deby’s son, 37-year-old General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, as interim president of the central African nation.
The army said Tuesday the elder Deby died from injuries sustained while visiting troops on the front line. A rebel force known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, known by its French acronym FACT, has advanced from the north in recent days toward the capital, N’Djamena. The group had been based in neighboring Libya.
The rebel group released a statement Tuesday vowing to take the capital and depose the younger Deby.
“Chad is not a monarchy,” the statement read. “There can be no dynastic devolution of power in our country.”
A day before his death, the 68-year-old Deby was declared the winner of Chad's April 11 election with 79 percent of the vote, giving him a sixth term in office. Most opposition groups had boycotted the poll, citing arrests and a government ban on opposition rallies.
Deby had ruled Chad since coming to power in a December 1990 coup, making him one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. Opponents called him an autocrat and criticized his management of Chadian oil revenue. In 2008, a different rebel force reached N’Djamena and came close to toppling Deby before French and Chadian army forces drove them out of the city.
In the West, however, Deby was seen as an important ally in the fight against Islamist extremist groups in West Africa and the Sahel, like Nigeria-based Boko Haram.
The Libya-based FACT had attacked a border post on the day of the election and then moved hundreds of kilometers toward the capital. On Monday, the Chadian army said it had inflicted a heavy loss on the rebels, killing more than 300 of them.