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Ex-military ruler sworn in as president in Sahel state

Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno was declared the winner of Chad’s contested May 6 elections after three years as interim leader

Former military leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno has been sworn in as president of Chad, making the Central African state the first among a group of Sahel countries under military control to transition to civilian rule.

The president-elect, who won a contested vote earlier this month, took the oath of office on Thursday at a ceremony in the capital, N’Djamena. The event was attended by several regional leaders, including Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe and his Mauritanian counterpart, Mohamed Ould Cheikh AI-Ghazouani, who is also the current African Union chairman.

The military ruler of Gabon, Brice Oligui Nguema, and the interim prime minister of Niger’s military government were also in attendance.

The swearing-in came a week after the Chadian Constitutional Council declared that Mahamat Deby had won the disputed May 6 election outright by claiming 61% of the total ballots cast.

Succes Masra, his main opponent, obtained 18.53% and had filed an appeal to have the results annulled due to alleged “blatant irregularities” and “serious violations of electoral law.” 

Masra, who was appointed prime minister by Mahamat Deby’s military government in January, resigned on Wednesday after the Constitutional Council confirmed the results, rendering his challenge unsuccessful.

Mahamat Deby first took power as interim leader in 2021 after his father, Idriss Deby Itno, who had ruled Chad for three decades, was killed fighting rebels. He promised to hold elections within 18 months, but in 2022, the military regime extended the deadline by two years, to October 2024, sparking protests that killed dozens of civilians.

The former French colony adopted a new constitution following a referendum in December, allowing the military ruler to run for president.

In his inaugural speech on Thursday, Mahamat Deby said the return to constitutional order “opens the way to a better future” for Chad.

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FILE PHOTO: Mahamat Idriss Deby.
Chad opposition challenges military ruler’s presidential victory

“To my brothers and sisters who did not choose me… I would like to say that I respect your choice, which contributes to the vitality of our democracy,” he said.

“We must surpass ourselves to strengthen our democracy and build a new Chad, resolutely focused on integrated and harmonious development,” the president added.

Mahamat Deby made several pledges, including modernizing agriculture and livestock farming – the two pillars of the Sahel state’s economy – during his five-year term. He also promised to devote 70% of the government budget to social welfare programs, such as improving access to education, water, health, energy, and food security.

Shortly after the swearing-in, the new government announced Chad’s ambassador to China, Allamaye Halina, as prime minister after Masra’s resignation.

May 24, 2024 at 03:27PM

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