Name? Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno
Westphalian identity? Chadian
Why is he in the news? Mahamat is currently the de facto interim President of Chad after his father, Chad’s iron-fisted president of 30 years, was killed by rebel forces on Monday.
Why do we care? The rebels (aka Front for Change and Concord in Chad–F.A.C.T. by its French acronym) surprisingly quick success in their campaign in Chad has been credited to their extensive combat experience in Libya. F.A.C.T. was employed by Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter (championed by Trump); supplied with weapons from the UAE; and based alongside Kremlin-backed mercenaries. In other words, Libya’s civil war has provided an open space for armed groups to find international sponsors, allies and even training.
Why should you care? In order to combat these rebels and maintain control of the country, Mahamat will likely need to withdraw Chadian troops in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions; effectively lifting pressure from Salafi-jihadi groups in the regions. This recall of forces to focus on the instability in Chad will have a domino effect on the stability of northern Mali as Chadian soldiers are one of the most active defenses against al-Qaeda affiliates in the region. You should care 9/10.
Who else cares? President of France, Emmanuel Macron. France has had a continued military presence in Chad since 1986 and has worked alongside other Western countries on counterterrorism efforts in the country and region. As such, Macron currently has at least 1000 soldiers based in Chad whose safety could now depend on Mahamat’s leadership and stability.
Any further comments? Chad’s military has been one of the most effective in regional counterterrorism efforts.. It remains to be seen whether General Mahamat Kaka–now President Mahamat Déby–will also receive Western support as he plays a critical role in preserving a peace deal with Sudan, a ceasefire in Libya, and insurgency in the Sahel.