Thousands of people have gathered in Ndjamena, Chad’s capital, to pay their respects to late President Idriss Deby, who was killed while leading his troops against a rebel offensive on Monday.
Despite rebel warnings that they could not attend for security reasons, French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde, and several other African leaders were scheduled to attend the ceremony on Friday.
On Friday, Macron pledged his support for the country’s “stability and dignity,” but he also urged his military successors to ensure a smooth transition back to civilian rule.
According to Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, who is reporting from the capital, there is a large deployment of troops due to security concerns in the region and the world.
“Troops have been deployed in the streets and around the presidential palace, as well as tanks to seal major roads ahead of the arrival of heads of state,” she said.
Chad’s armed forces stunned the nation on Tuesday by announcing that Deby had died from wounds suffered while leading soldiers on the front line against rebels advancing from the north towards Ndjamena. He was 68.
Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors, holding on to power despite rebellions that reached as far as his palace gates.
He was born into the Zaghawa ethnic group and grew up in Ennedi’s northeastern area. He entered the army in the early 1970s, during a long-running civil war in Chad, and obtained additional military training in France.
Deby ascended to the position of commander-in-chief of the armed forces and ultimately rose to power by leading a 1990 uprising against authoritarian leader Hissene Habre, whom he had once mentored.
He was sworn in as president in February of the following year, and he went on to win elections in 1996 and 2001 before pushing through a constitutional amendment in 2018 that would have required him to remain in power until 2033.
Although criticised by human rights groups for his repressive rule, he established himself as a key military ally of Western powers in the international fight against armed groups.
Emmanuel Gaba, a young resident of the capital, said, “He liberated our country from oppression and gave us the opportunity to fully engage in democracy.”
His death occurred a day after election officials announced that he had been elected to a sixth term in office. The majority of the opposition chose to abstain from voting. For the next 18 months, his uncle, General Mahamat Idriss Deby, 37, will head a transitional military council.
“After so many years of security, we have come to wish him eternal rest. Hassan Adoum, who was present at the ceremony, said, “A well-deserved rest.”
A car with installed speakers rode around Ndjamena on Thursday, telling residents not to be alarmed if they hear cannon fire because Deby would be honored with a 21-gun salute.