CHAD FACES UNCERTAINTY AS RE-ELECTED PRESIDENT DIES ON FRONTLINE
On 20 April, the day after Chad’s President Idriss Deby was declared the winner of the country’s presidential election, Mr Deby died while visiting troops on the frontline of a fight against northern rebels. The sudden and mysterious death of one of the longest-serving African presidents – described as a ‘strongman,’ and seen as a reliable Western and regional ally in the fight against Islamist extremist groups – has caused concern for the stability of Chad and the region. Mr Deby’s 37-year-old son, General Mahamat Kaka, was named interim president by a transitional council of military officers and parliament was suspended, in an apparent effort to maintain order in this fragile time. Internationally, however, there is some concern over the suspension of parliament and the deviation from constitutional protocols – interim power should have transferred to parliament’s spokesperson. The military, however, promised “free and democratic” elections at the end of the 18-month-long transition. The recent elections on 11 April were not without controversy as they were widely boycotted by opposition leaders and disgruntled Chadians, dissatisfied with the late President’s management of Chad’s oil wealth, his crackdowns on opponents, and the perceived high levels of corruption. Mr Deby’s 30-year-rule also faced resistance from rebel forces, including the Libya-based Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), which waged an incursion in the north of Chad on election day, advancing south. The rebel group experienced a setback this past weekend when army troops reportedly killed over 300 rebel fighters and took 150 prisoners. There is fear that rebels will take advantage of the uncertainty following Mr Deby’s death and gain more ground. There are also deep concerns that factional politics will fill the vacuum left by Mr Deby’s untimely death, especially since there did not seem to be any preparations made for a successor.
From a Christian perspective, a time of fear and uncertainty provides a special opportunity for the Church in Chad to display extraordinary peace and hope, despite troubling circumstances. Furthermore, as they display the fruits of the Spirit, may they find ‘open doors’ to engage with their non-believing neighbours who may be looking for something to hold onto in this time of crisis. There have been reports of the believing community growing in Chad, especially among house churches, and some ministries are already using avenues available to them to draw and reach out to the lost, especially those with specific needs. In addition to projects providing basic needs, communication avenues such as radio stations, have also been mentioned as a tool to spread the gospel. However, among the traditional Church in Chad (38.5%), largely made up of Roman Catholics, there have been reports of hesitancy to take a more active, visible role in their communities out of fear of persecution. Chad has attempted to preserve freedom of religion, which is praiseworthy in a country surrounded by Muslim-dominant nations within the Sahel region. However, the majority religion is Islam (52.8%), especially in the north, and rebel threats are often strongly Islamist, typically sponsored by foreign hardline groups and nations. An INcontext source shared that recent events worsen the peoples’ existing anger and frustration, in addition to fear and uncertainty. However, the global Church can stand in prayerful support of the Chadian believers, that they may not shrink back, but rather advance the Kingdom by the power and leading of the Spirit.
Please pray with us for the following:
- For godly leadership in handling the crisis, and for Chad to not descend into disorder and fighting
- For the Church to display the fruits of the Spirit and to engage those around them who notice their Christlike response to the uncertainty and instability
- For the Chadian Church to be effective in reaching out to Muslim neighbours and ‘unreached’ people groups
File photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau