Chad’s newly re-elected President Idriss Deby Itno has died of injuries while fighting rebels in the north of the Sahel country.
He died on Tuesday, a day after he won re-election for a sixth term in office.
Deby, 68, “has just breathed his last defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield” over the weekend, army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a statement read out on state television.
He has been in power for three decades.
Deby was on Monday re-elected to a sixth term with 79.32 per cent of April 11’s vote, provisional results showed Monday, hours after the army said it had killed 300 fighters waging a rebel offensive launched on election day.
He ruled for three decades and his re-election was never in serious doubt, with a divided opposition, boycott calls, and a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed.
Former prime minister Albert Pahimi Padacke came in second with just 10.32 per cent, and the turnout was 64.81 per cent, according to provisional figures announced by Independent National Electoral Commission chairman Kodi Mahamat Bam.
The first female presidential candidate in Chad’s history, Lydie Beassemda, came third with 3.16 per cent.
Officially nine candidates were running against Deby, but three withdrew and called for the vote to be boycotted, blasting the violent repression of peaceful opposition rallies. However, the Supreme Court kept their names on the ballots.
Supporters and activists of Deby’s party the Patriotic Salvation Movement celebrated the results, singing and dancing in the central square of the capital N’Djamena.
“We are celebrating a great victory in the first round, but also seriously on our minds are our brothers, our comrades, soldiers of the Chadian army who fell on the field,” the party’s secretary-general Mahamat Zen Bada said.
– Rebel offensive –
Deby is a key ally in the West’s anti-jihadist campaign in the Sahel and he campaigned on a promise of bringing peace and security to the region.
But on election day, a heavily armed rebel group launched an incursion into Chad’s north from its rear base in Libya.
On Monday, Chad’s army said it had it had killed more than 300 rebels, capturing 150 more, and lost five soldiers in the eight days of fighting.
The government meanwhile sought to assure concerned residents that the offensive was over and calm had been restored.
The rebel raid in the provinces of Tibesti and Kanem was carried out by the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), based in Libya.
The group has a non-aggression pact with Khalifa Haftar, a military strongman who controls much of Libya’s east.
While the government had said Saturday that the rebel offensive was over, fighting had in fact resumed Sunday afternoon, army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said.
“The situation is now calm on the front,” he told AFP on Monday.
FACT said in a statement Sunday that it had “liberated” the Kanem region. Such claims in remote desert combat zones are difficult to verify.