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Slain Chad leader’s son takes over reins

Opposition parties call it a ‘coup’, urges people ‘not to obey’ the military decision

Chad faced an uncertain future on Wednesday as the son of slain leader Idriss Deby Itno took power in what the opposition called a coup even as Western allies that rely on the country’s military might pleaded for stability.

Deby had ruled the impoverished desert country for three decades before the Army announced his death on Tuesday from wounds suffered while leading troops in battle against rebels.

The shock demise of the 68-year-old led to immediate concerns of a power vacuum in Chad, which sits at the heart of the troubled Sahel region and is key to the West’s anti-jihadist efforts.

Deby’s death was announced only a day after provisional results declared him the winner of an April 11 election giving him a sixth term in office.

Allies of the late leader moved swiftly to assure power remained in their hands, installing Deby’s 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Deby as President and head of a transitional military council while dissolving Parliament and the government.

They tore up Chad’s Constitution and established a “Transition Charter” that lays out a new basic law for the country of 16 million people that spans western and central Africa.

The charter issued on Wednesday proclaimed that Mr. Mahamat, a career soldier like his father who had been head of the powerful presidential guard, will “occupy the functions of the President of the republic” and also serve as head of the armed forces. The transition period is meant to last 18 months and lead to democratic elections, though it can be extended once.

Chad’s main opposition parties were unconvinced, denouncing an “institutional coup d’etat” in a statement and calling on citizens “not to obey illegitimate decisions” by the military council.

Beyond that, the threat remained from rebels who launched an incursion into the country’s north from Libya on the day of the April 11 election despite army claims they had been defeated.

The rebel group, known as FACT, told AFP on Tuesday it would pursue its offensive after a pause for Deby’s state funeral on Friday.

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