|“||These are exceptional measures, but I must do this to assure the regular functioning of the state.||„|
|~ Idriss Déby|
Idriss Déby Itno (Arabic: إدريس ديبي Idrīs Daybī Itnū; June 18, 1952 - April 20, 2021) was a Chadian politician who was the President of Chad from 1990 until his death in 2021. He was also head of the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement.
Déby was of the Bidyat clan of the Zaghawa ethnic group. He took power at the head of a rebellion against President Hissène Habré in December 1990 and has since survived various rebellions and coup attempts against his own rule. He won elections in 1996 and 2001, and after term limits were eliminated he won again in 2006, 2011, and 2016. He added "Itno" to his surname in January 2006. He was a graduate of Muammar Gaddafi's World Revolutionary Center. Déby's multi-decade rule was described as authoritarian by several international media sources.
Déby was born into a family of the Zaghawa ethnic group in the Ennedi region of northeastern Chad. In the early 1970s, while the country was in the grips of a long-running civil war, he joined the army. He went to France in 1976 to receive additional training at a flight school and earned a pilot’s license.
In 1978 Déby returned to Chad, which was still in a state of conflict. He threw his support behind Hissène Habré, the head of one of the rebel groups who was then serving as prime minister, and emerged as a leader of Habré’s forces. Conflict between the various rebel groups vying for control of the government continued, and, buoyed by Déby’s military successes, Habré was able to seize power in 1982 and become president. By that time Déby was recognized as a brilliant military strategist and was made commander in chief of the armed forces. Three years later he returned to France for additional military instruction, participating in a senior officer-training program at the École Supérieure de Guerre.
Déby’s relationship with Habré soured, and in April 1989 Déby was accused of plotting to overthrow Habré’s government. Hounded by Habré’s forces, Déby was able to evade capture and managed to escape to the neighbouring country of Sudan. After regrouping, he and forces loyal to him began launching attacks on Habré’s troops from his base in Sudan’s Darfur region. By late 1990 Habré had fled the country and Déby’s forces seized N’Djamena, the Chadian capital. Déby suspended the constitution and formed a new government, of which he was the head.
Déby promised to establish a multiparty democracy and end the lawlessness and conflict that had endured in Chad for so long. In actuality, this did not happen, although there was some illusion of progress. A national conference was held in 1993 to establish a transitional government, and Déby was officially designated interim president.
In 1996 a new constitution was approved, and Déby was elected president in the first multiparty presidential elections held in Chad’s history. The 1996 elections were marred by credible allegations of fraud, however. And when Déby was reelected in 2001, it was again amid allegations of widespread voting irregularities. A 2005 constitutional referendum that eliminated presidential term limits was denounced by critics as another means of supporting the president’s increasingly autocratic rule. Nonetheless, the referendum passed, clearing the way for Déby’s reelection in 2006 in a poll that was boycotted by most of the opposition. Also that year Déby added Itno, an ethnic Zaghawa name, to his name. He was reelected in 2011, again in a poll that was boycotted by the country’s most prominent opposition figures.
Throughout his presidency Déby repeatedly faced resistance in the form of coup attempts and rebel activity. He and his administration were beset with charges of corruption and were known for brutally repressing individual rights and freedoms, with Chadian security forces routinely committing serious human rights abuses. Déby was also accused of misusing income from Chad’s nascent oil industry, spending much of the proceeds for weapons to aid in the fight against his detractors rather than for the food assistance, infrastructure development, and education and health programs that his country so desperately needed.
In the years after the 2011 election, Déby bolstered his international standing with his leadership in efforts to counter the spread of terrorism perpetrated by Militant Islamic groups in the region. At home, however, his regime remained largely repressive. Still, there was an unprecedented amount of protest in the months leading up to the April 10, 2016, presidential election, in which Déby faced 13 challengers. Déby was declared the winner, taking almost 62 percent of the vote, amid complaints of fraud from opposition members.
Déby’s presidential powers were expanded when a new constitution was promulgated in May 2018. The elimination of the prime minister post, which left executive power concentrated with the president, was among the changes made under the new constitution, as was change to the presidential terms: the stipulation of a five-year term with no term limits was replaced by a six-year term with a limit of two terms.
He was married to the daughter of Musa Hilal, leader of the Janjaweed in neighboring Sudan. On 20 April 2021 a Transitional Military Council announced that Déby had died while commanding his army against Libyan-backed rebels calling themselves the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) in the north of Chad during the Northern Chad offensive, at the age of 68, according to an army spokesperson. The Chadian Parliament was dissolved upon his death, and his son, Mahamat Déby Itno, was named Chairman of the Transitional Military Council.