|8th President of Chad
2 December 1990
||Jean Alingué Bawoyeu
Delwa Kassiré Koumakoye
Nassour Guelendouksia Ouaido
Delwa Kassiré Koumakoye
Youssouf Saleh Abbas
Kalzeubet Pahimi Deubet
Albert Pahimi Padacké
||Bada Abbas Maldoum (1990-1991)
|Chairperson of the African Union
30 January 2016 – 30 January 2017
||(1952-06-18) June 18, 1952
Berdoba, French Equatorial Africa (now Chad)
||Patriotic Salvation Movement
||Hinda Déby (2005–present)
Amani Musa Hilal
General Idriss Déby Itno (Arabic: إدريس ديبي Idrīs Daybī Itnū; ) is a Chadian politician who has been the President of Chad since 1990. He is also head of the Patriotic Salvation Movement. Déby is 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 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 is a graduate of Muammar Gaddafi’s World Revolutionary Center.
Youth and military career
Déby was born in the village of Berdoba, approximately 190 kilometers from Fada in northern Chad. His father was a poor herder, who belongs to the Bidayat clan of the Zaghawa community. After attending the Qur’anic School in Tiné, he continued his studies at the École Française in Fada and later at Franco-Arab school (Lycée Franco-Arabe) in Abéché. He also attended the Lycée Jacques Moudeina in Bongor and also holds a bachelor’s degree in Science. After finishing school, he entered the Officers’ School in N’Djamena. From there he was sent to France for training, returning to Chad in 1976 with a professional pilot certificate. He remained loyal to the army and to President Félix Malloum even after the country’s central authority crumbled in 1979. He returned from France in February 1979 and found the country had become a battleground for many armed groups. Déby tied his fortunes to those of Hissène Habré, one of the chief Chadian warlords. A year after Habré became President in 1982, Déby was made commander-in-chief of the army. He distinguished himself in 1984 by destroying pro-Libyan forces in Eastern Chad. In 1985, Habré sent him to Paris to follow a course at the École de Guerre; on his return in 1986, he was made chief military advisor to the Presidency. In 1987, he confronted Libyan forces on the field, with the help of France in the so-called “Toyota War”, adopting tactics that inflicted heavy losses on enemy forces. During the war, he also led a raid on Maaten al-Sarra Air Base in Kufrah, which located in Libyan territory. A rift emerged on 1 April 1989 between Habré and Déby over the increasing power of the Presidential Guard. According to Human Rights Watch, Habré was found responsible for “widespread political killings, systematic torture, and thousands of arbitrary arrests”, as well as ethnic purges when it was perceived that group leaders could pose a threat to his rule, including many of Déby’s Zaghawa ethnic group who supported the government. Increasingly paranoid, Habré accused Déby, Mahamat Itno, the minister of interior, and Hassan Djamous, commander in chief of the Chadian army of preparing a coup d’état. Déby first fled to Darfur, and then to Libya, which he was welcomed by Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli, while Itno and Djamous were arrested and killed. Since all three were ethnic Zaghawa, Habré started a targeted campaign against the group which saw hundreds seized, tortured and imprisoned. Dozens died in detention or were summarily executed. In 2016, Habré was convicted of war crimes by a specially-created international tribunal in Senegal. Once in Libya, Déby gave the Libyans detailed information about CIA operations in Chad. Gaddafi offered Déby military aid to seize power in Chad in exchange with Libyan prisoners of war.
Déby moved to Sudan and formed the Patriotic Salvation Movement, an insurgent group, supported by Libya and Sudan, which started operations against Habré in October 1989. He unleashed a decisive attack on 10 November 1990, and on 2 December Déby’s troops marched unopposed into the capital, N’Djaména.
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, but again in a poll that was boycotted by the country’s most prominent opposition figures.
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 Islamic militant 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 has been married several times and has at least a dozen children. He married Hinda (b. 1977) in September 2005. Reputed for her beauty, this marriage attracted much attention in Chad, and due to tribal affiliations it was seen by many as a strategic means for Déby to bolster his support while under pressure from rebels. Hinda is a member of the Civil Cabinet of the Presidency, serving as Special Secretary.
On July 2, 2007, Déby’s son Brahim (age 27) was found dead in the parking garage of his apartment near Paris. According to the autopsy report, he had likely been asphyxiated by white powder from a fire extinguisher. A murder inquiry was launched by the French police.
Brahim had been sacked as presidential advisor the year before, after being convicted of possessing drugs and weapons. Blogger Makaila Nguebla attributes the defection of many Chadian government leaders to their indignation over Brahim’s conduct: “He is at the root of all the frustration. He used to slap government ministers, senior Chadian officials were humiliated by Déby’s son.”