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Chad’s interim leader Deby announces plan to run for president days after killing of opposition leader

Chad’s interim leader Deby to run for president

The transitional president of Chad, Mahamat Idriss Deby said on Saturday he plans to run in this year’s long-awaited presidential race.

Deby’s confirmation came at the end of a chaotic week in which opposition politician Yaya Dillo was shot and killed in the capital N’Djamena, prompting the European Union to express its deep concern.

Dillo’s death on Wednesday in disputed circumstances has further exposed divisions in the ruling elite at a politically sensitive time as the Central African country prepares for the promised return to democratic rule via the ballot box.

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The Chadian government has said Dillo was killed in an exchange of gunfire with security forces and has accused members of his party of also attacking the internal security agency.

On Friday, the government confirmed that Deby’s uncle, General Saleh Deby Itno, had been arrested in the wake of Wednesday’s events.

Itno had recently defected to Dillo’s opposition Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF).

“He has now been charged by the public prosecutor and his life is in no danger,” government spokesperson Abderaman Koulamallah said, without specifying what charges Itno faces.

READ ALSO: Chadian President Idriss Deby Dies on Battlefield after Re-election

Chadian rebel group the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) and the CNRD opposition party have described Dillo’s death as an assassination.

The URT opposition party said Dillo “democratically opposed the dangerous trajectory of the military transition in Chad”.

In a statement on Saturday, the URT said recent events were “a dangerous and deliberate move to muzzle the political opposition”.

Addressing supporters and state officials, Deby announced his candidacy for the May-June election in a speech that made no reference to Dillo’s killing or his uncle’s arrest.

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“It is … with a mixture of honour, humility, responsibility and gratitude that I accept this nomination,” he said.

Later on Saturday, the diplomatic service of the European Union said it was deeply concerned about the recent violence in N’Djamena and called for the facts and those responsible to be established in “a credible and independent way”.

“These events undermine the efforts needed to ensure a transparent, pluralist, inclusive and peaceful transition,” it said in a statement.

Deby initially promised an 18-month transition to elections after he seized power in 2021, when his long-ruling father was killed in clashes with rebels.

READ ALSO: Chadian President Idriss Deby Dies on Battlefield after Re-election

But his government later adopted resolutions that postponed elections until 2024 and allowed him to run for president.

The electoral delay triggered protests that were violently quelled by security forces with around 50 civilians killed.

Opposition leader killed in gun exchange, state prosecutor says

Yaya Dillo, Opposition leader, Chad
Yaya Dillo

Chadian opposition politician Yaya Dillo was killed during an exchange of fire with security forces, state prosecutor Oumar Mahamat Kedelaye says at a news conference.

Dillo was among several people killed when he led an attack on the National State Security Agency (ANSE) in the capital, N’Djamena, the prosecutor said on Thursday.

Heavy gunfire was heard on Wednesday in N’Djamena near the headquarters of Dillo’s Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF), witnesses told newsmen. The shooting erupted after several people were killed in earlier clashes near the ANSE building.

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The attack underscored the tenuous situation in the Central African country ahead of a presidential election scheduled for May 6. Dillo, 49, was current President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno’s cousin and a strong contender in the polls.

Dillo died “where he had retreated, at the headquarters of his party”, Abderaman Koulamallah, the Chadian communications minister told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

“He didn’t want to surrender and fired on law enforcement,” he said.

Dillo “died assassinated by the Republican Guard”, PSF spokesperson Evariste Gabnon said hours after his death was announced.

His body was handed over to his family for burial, AFP reported.

“The death of opposition leader Yaya Dillo followed a siege on his house and the houses of other top officials of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders in N’Djamena on Wednesday,” Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris said, reporting from Abuja in neighbouring Nigeria.

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“But before then, there was a gunfight on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning while officials say they confronted armed elements belonging to the opposition after they tried to assassinate the president of the country’s top court.”

Attack on NSSA?

Dillo was accused of leading the attack on the National State Security Agency, but he had denied any involvement.

Speaking to AFP, Dillo dismissed the allegation as a “lie” and said it was politically motivated.

Dillo also condemned accusations by the government of a PSF-coordinated “assassination attempt against the president of the Supreme Court”, which Dillo called “staged”.

The violence flared amid tensions ahead of the election that could return Chad to constitutional rule three years after military authorities seized power.

On Thursday, there was still a heavy military presence in the capital and access to the presidential palace was blocked.

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