Voters in Chad’s 2016 election. Photo credit: VOA/Bagassi Koura (Public Domain)
Freedom House Rating
By December 2022 (tentative, post-coup)
April 11, 2021
February 11, 2013
Chad held a presidential election on April 11, 2021. President Idriss Déby, who seized power in a rebellion in 1990, won a sixth term. However, on April 20, he was killed by rebels. Déby’s son, 37-year-old General Mahamat Déby, declared himself interim leader, backed by the military. He dissolved parliament and promised elections within 18 months, by December 2022. However, it is unclear when the elections will actually happen.
Idriss Déby seized power in a rebellion in 1990, and although the country holds elections, there has never been a change in power by a free or fair vote. However, the opposition does hold seats in the National Assembly. Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world and faces chronic instability.
Western governments, particularly France, viewed the Déby regime as a security partner in countering terrorism in the region, and provided military aid. Opposition activists face arrest and mistreatment.
There are concerns that the regime uses counterterrorism as an excuse for suppressing legitimate political opposition. However, terrorism remains a very real threat – for example, in March 2020, Boko Haram terrorists attacked a garrison of Chadian soldiers, killing 92 of them in the worst attack the Chadian army has ever faced. On the other hand, the opposition believes that Déby has mismanaged the country, which is one of the poorest in the world, with two-thirds of the population living in extreme poverty.
In addition to the terrorism threat, Chad is riven by conflict with various rebel groups. At least four of these groups are well-armed.
The 2021 Presidential Election
Following a 2018 constitutional change, Déby could remain in power until 2033. His party has formally nominated him as its candidate for the April 2021 election – running for his sixth term. The move sparked protests, which took place despite a ban. Most serious opposition figures were arrested, disqualified from the ballot, or physically attacked (one major opposition figure had his house attacked by police and soldiers, who killed his mother). In addition, the regime co-opted a number of other opposition figures.
Ultimately, while other names appeared on the ballot, none were seen as serious challengers to Déby, and he was declared the winner after the first round.
Déby’s Death and Subsequent “Dynastic Coup”
Right after the election, Déby – a lifelong soldier – was killed while leading troops in a clash with the rebel group FACT, founded by disaffected Chadian military officers. Déby’s son, 37-year-old General Mahamat Déby, declared himself in charge. In September 2021, he appointed a new 93-member transitional parliament and continued to promise elections.
Chad sits at the crossroads of various political, religious, and ethnic faultlines in the region. Libya has a long history of involvement in Chad, and frequently played the role of power broker between various Chadian factions. France also has a long history of deep involvement.
Curated News and Analysis
AFP (November 29, 2021): Chad gives amnesty to hundreds of rebels and dissidents, meeting opposition demand
Daniel Eizenga, World Politics Review (October 12, 2021): Chad’s ‘Political Transition’ Is a Smokescreen for Military Rule
Trevor Filseth, National Interest (September 28, 2021): Chad Interim Parliament Announced: Opposition Leaders Excluded
Reuters (September 25, 2021): Chad plans to double army size to deal with security challenges
Al Jazeera (September 24, 2021): Chad’s military ruler Mahamat Deby names transitional parliament: The so-called National Transitional Council ‘will act as a national assembly of transition’ ahead of elections, statement says.
Nadia Chahed, Andalou Agency (July 31 2021 – in French): Chad: Calendar for transition unveiled
Esdras Ndikumana, RFI (July 20, 2021 – in French): Chad: Three months of tense relations between the junta and the African Union
AFP (July 8, 2021 – in French): Chadian junta says relations with African Union “appeased”
Le Figaro/AFP (July 5, 2021 – in French): France promises “new budgetary aid” to Chad
AFP (June 13, 2021 – in French): The party of the late president procrastinates before finding a successor
Moki Edwin Kindzeka, Voice of America (May 8, 2021): Chad’s Military Council Seeks Central African States Support
RFI (May 6, 2021 – in French): Chad: opposition calls for national meetings to find a consensus solution
Daniel Eizenga, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (May 3, 2021): Chad’s Ongoing Instability, the Legacy of Idriss Déby
Paul Taylor, Politico (April 27, 2021): In the Sahel, Macron faces his Afghanistan
Edward McAllister and Mahamat Ramadane, Reuters (April 26, 2021): Chad military refuses talks with rebels as opposition presses for civilian rule
BBC (April 24, 2021): Chad after Idriss Déby: African Union urges end to military rule
David Pilling, Financial Times (April 22, 2021): A warrior dynasty in Chad will do little to end Islamist threat
André Kodmadjingar and Jason Patinkin, Voice of America (April 21, 2021): Chad’s Interim President Faces Power Struggle
Ibtissem Guenfoud and Morgan Winsor, ABC News (April 20, 2021): Chad president dies in battle with rebel group, nation’s army says
Reuters (April 19, 2021): Chad President Deby wins re-election, extending 30 years in power
Kizzi Asala and Joel Honoré Kouam, Africanews (April 6, 2021): Chad: Charged atmosphere pre-election as opposition calls for boycott
AFP (March 30, 2021): Chad’s Deby set for sixth term after key rivals sidelined
Helga Dickow, The Conversation (March 24, 2021): How a popular movement could threaten Idriss Déby Itno’s 30 years in power
Reuters (March 3, 2021): France tells Chad to open probe after deaths at opposition figure’s home
Al Jazeera (March 1, 2021): Chad opposition leader quits presidential race after shoot-out
DW (February 28, 2021): Chad: Several killed during arrest of opposition figure
RFI (February 22, 2021): Chad: Human rights defender gets 3 years in jail for posting about Déby’s health
Martina Schwikowski, DW (February 11, 2021): Chad: Tensions rise over Deby’s presidential run
AFP (February 9, 2021): Chad opposition parties name single candidate for April 11 poll
Amnesty International (February 9, 2021): Chad: Opposition members and human rights activists banned from freely protesting ahead of election
World Politics Review (July 30, 2020): What Would It Take for Idriss Deby to Fall in Chad?
AFP (July 2, 2020): Chad Sets October 2021 For Delayed Legislative Election
Jeune Afrique/AFP (June 10, 2010 – in French): Chad: new postponement of the legislative elections initially scheduled for 2015
International Crisis Group (May 25, 2020): As Chad’s Problems Mount, What Role for Civil Society?
Will Brown, Foreign Policy (April 1, 2020): As the World Is Distracted, Boko Haram Terrorists Strike a Key Western Ally
The Economist (July 18, 2019): Idriss Déby, Chad’s despot, is struggling to stay in power
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Updated January 16, 2022