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4 Mar, 2024 10:00

African military ruler announces presidential run

Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno has ruled Chad since 2021, when his father was killed fighting rebels
African military ruler announces presidential run

Chad’s transitional leader, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, also known as Mahamat Kaka, announced over the weekend that he will run in the Sahel nation’s presidential election scheduled for May 6.

The Coalition for a United Chad, an alliance of 221 political parties and associations, has endorsed Mahamat Kaka’s candidacy.

“Dreaming alone remains a dream, but dreaming together becomes a reality,” he declared in a speech on Saturday, confirming his campaign.

The military ruler’s candidacy announcement came just three days after his main opponent, Yaya Dillo, was killed in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena.

Chadian authorities accused Dillo, who was the leader of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF) and was also Mahamat Kaka’s cousin, of carrying out a deadly armed raid on the National State Security Agency (ANSE) on Wednesday. He was shot and killed in his party headquarters later that day, with the government claiming “he didn’t want to surrender and fired on law enforcement.” Prior to his death, Dillo had called the allegations “lies.” 

General Saleh Deby Itno, Mahamat Kaka’s uncle who recently defected to the PSF, has also been arrested in the aftermath of last week’s violence.

Dillo, an outspoken critic of the Central African nation’s government, had planned to seek election for president. The rebel Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) and PSF officials have claimed that Dillo was assassinated in order to prevent him from running in the May vote.

“These heinous crimes will not go unpunished,” the group warned in a statement on Thursday, calling on Chadians “who love peace and justice, to say no to the junta without any complacency.” 

In his speech on Saturday, in which he made no mention of his opponent’s death, Mahamat Kaka vowed to carry out the “deepest and most common aspirations of all Chadians.” 

“I will not skimp on any means to promote fair, equitable, and effective governance for the development of Chad,” he told the gathering.

Backed by former colonial power France, Mahamat Kaka has been ruling Chad since his father, Idriss Deby Itno, was killed while fighting rebels in 2021. He initially promised to hold elections within 18 months. However, in 2022, the military regime extended the deadline by two years, until October 2024, sparking protests that resulted in the deaths of over 100 civilians.

The landlocked state adopted a new constitution after a referendum last December, allowing Mahamat Kaka to run for president. Last week, the Chadian electoral commission announced that a presidential election would take place in May, with a runoff in June if necessary, to return the former French colony to civilian rule.

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