President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said the demise of ex-Chadian President Idriss Deby “will surely create a big vacuum in the efforts to jointly confront the Boko Haram terrorists and the Islamic State West Africa Province.”
The President made the comment in a statement signed by his spokesman Garba Shehu.
Deby died of injuries while fighting rebels in the north of the Sahel country, according to the Chadian army earlier on Tuesday.
The shocking announcement came only the day after the 68-year-old was proclaimed the winner of a presidential election that had given him a sixth term in office.
The Chadian army said Deby had been commanding his army at the weekend as it battled against rebels who had launched a major incursion into the north of the country on election day.
Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno gives a press conference after a meeting with French Defence Minister Herve Morin (not in photo), in Ndjamena during an official visit to Chad. Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno, who has been in power for 30 years, died on April 20, 2021
Reacting to the incident on Tuesday, President Buhari said he was “deeply shocked and devastated by the sudden death of Idriss Deby on the battlefront to defend the sovereignty of his country.”
According to the President, “the late Deby had played a very active role in our regional joint collaboration in the military campaign against the Boko Haram terrorists.”
He further described the late Chadian leader “as a friend of Nigeria who had enthusiastically lent his hand in our efforts to defeat the murderous Boko Haram terrorists that have posed grave security challenges not only for Nigeria, but also our African neighbours, particularly Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.”
He added that “the death of Deby will surely create a big vacuum in the efforts to jointly confront the Boko Haram terrorists and the Islamic State West Africa Province.”
While condoling with the people of Chad and their new leader, President Buhari called for greater collaboration to defeat the terrorists.
Deby, 68, had ruled Chad for three decades but was a key ally in the West’s anti-jihadist campaign in the troubled Sahel region.
The army said a military council led by the late president’s 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, a four-star general, would replace him.
On Monday, the army had claimed a “great victory” in its battle against the rebels from neighbouring Libya, saying it had killed 300 fighters, with the loss of five soldiers in its own ranks during eight days of combat.
Deby would have been one of the longest-serving leaders in the world, after provisional results showed him winning the April 11 election.
He was a herder’s son from the Zaghawa ethnic group who took the classic path to power through the army and relished the military culture.
His latest election victory — with almost 80 percent of the vote — had never been in doubt, with a divided opposition, boycott calls, and a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed.
Deby had campaigned on a promise of bringing peace and security to the region, but his pledges were undermined by the rebel incursion.
Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno, who has been in power for 30 years, died on April 20, 2021 from injuries sustained while commanding his army in fighting against rebels in the north over the weekend, a spokesman announced on state television.
The government had sought on Monday to assure concerned residents that the offensive was over.
The tanks were later withdrawn apart from a perimeter around the president’s office, which is under heavy security during normal times.
“The establishment of a security deployment in certain areas of the capital seems to have been misunderstood,” government spokesman Cherif Mahamat Zene had said on Twitter on Monday.
“There is no particular threat to fear.”
However, the US embassy in N’Djamena had on Saturday ordered non-essential personnel to leave the country, warning of possible violence in the capital. Britain also urged its nationals to leave.
France’s embassy said in an advisory to its nationals in Chad that the deployment was a precaution and there was no specific threat to the capital.
The rebel raid in the provinces of Tibesti and Kanem was carried out by the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), based in Libya.
The group has a non-aggression pact with Khalifa Haftar, a military strongman who controls much of Libya’s east.
FACT, a group mainly made up of the Saharan Goran people, said in a statement Sunday that it had “liberated” the Kanem region. Such claims in remote desert combat zones are difficult to verify.
The Tibesti mountains near the Libyan frontier frequently see fighting between rebels and the army, as well as in the northeast bordering Sudan. French air strikes were needed to stop an incursion there in February 2019.
In February 2008, a rebel assault reached the gates of the presidential palace before being pushed back with French backing.