A very learned comrade
Idris Debi was born into a shepherd’s family on June 18, 1952 in the village of Berdoba in the north of Chad. Then this territory was a colony of France.
For the son of a shepherd, Idris’s thirst for knowledge was phenomenal. He had absolutely no intention of continuing his father’s work.
Idris consistently graduated from a school for the study of the Koran, a French high school, two lyceums and, finally, the capital’s officers’ school. And then he continued his education in France, at the Institute of Aeronautics. Amaury de la Grange, from which he graduated in 1979, becoming a certified paratrooper and pilot.
And everywhere he left memories of himself as a modest guy and a real comrade, always ready to help.
So, for example, while studying at the Institute of Aeronautics, he helped his classmate Benaindo Tatola pass exams in decoding the Morse code. Tatole himself later spoke about this, who eventually rose to the rank of general and became chief of the military staff under Debi-President.
Abroad will help us
While Debi studied, Chad fought. The civil war has not stopped there since 1965. Upon returning to his homeland, Debi had to choose between several political forces at once. He could support the incumbent president, he could side with the Libyan-backed FROLINAT rebel movement, or he could side with the anti-Libyan rebels from the Armed Forces of the North (FAN).
Idris chose the northerners, perhaps because he was also a northerner. Within a year, he became the chief of staff of the FAN and the right-hand man of the rebel leader Hissen Habré.
At first it seemed that Deby was betting on the wrong ones. Gaddafi sent about 10 thousand well-armed fighters, tanks, armored vehicles, rocket launchers and other weapons to Libya. Superiority in military power rather quickly allowed FROLINAT to defeat opponents, and its leader became the president of the country.
Debi, along with his leader, fled the country. Chad, under the leadership of FROLINAT, began to prepare for a formal unification with Libya. But then the situation changed.
All those who did not like the strengthening of Libya in the region came to the aid of the defeated rebels, from the United States and France to Israel and Egypt. With their support, the “Armed Forces of the North” under the leadership of Habré and Debi struck back and in a couple of months defeated both the FROLINAT forces and Libya.
As the combatants recalled those events, Idris Debi directed the operation directly on the battlefield. Dressed in camouflage and with a map in hand, he rode through the positions in one of the Toyota pickups, which replaced tanks and armored vehicles for the FAN army.
“The columns of Toyota, which pierce the enemy positions at a speed of 80 km per hour,” – described what is happening the former rebel. “A real ball of fire” – admired at the time a French officer who nicknamed Deby a cowboy.
Two executioners – a couple
After the victory, the chair of the head of state was taken by Habré, and Debi led the army. Together, the two northerners carried out real military operations against the peoples of the south of the country. Habré was distinguished by its cruelty.
In 2016, he was found guilty of killing at least 40 thousand people and torturing at least 200 thousand. Now the ex-president is serving a life sentence in Dakar.
In addition to the army, Idris Debi headed the Directorate of Documentation and Security, a special service established by Habré and carrying out repressions against political opponents. He personally participated in the interrogation of hundreds of people.
It seemed that the tandem would last for many years. However, already in 1985, Habré began to suspect everyone around of a conspiracy and sent Deby to France to undergo training at the Higher Military School in Paris. And after returning to Chad in 1987, Deby received the position of only adviser to the president on security and defense issues.
Finally, in 1989, Habré entered into an open conflict with the security forces, executed the Minister of Internal Affairs, the commander of the army, and began mass repressions against the Zaghawa people, to which Debi belonged.
Now a former ally of Habré escapes to Sudan, and then goes to Libya. He creates a new insurgency – the Patriotic Rescue Movement (PDM) and, with the support of the West and many African countries, goes on a counteroffensive. It took Idris Debi and his troops less than a month to destroy the forces of Habré.
On December 1, 1990, Hissen Habré was overthrown and fled the country.
And Idris Deby became the fifth president of Chad and the first who managed to hold on to power for a long 30 years. Although initially it was assumed that he would lead the country for only 30 months.
Since then, Deby has experienced at least six putsches. In 2008, the rebels were ready to celebrate the victory: most of the country and the capital were under their control. They have already laid siege to the presidential palace. Debi, however, did not run. From the surrounded residence, he arranged for urgent assistance from France. With the support of the French paratroopers, he not only repulsed the attack on the palace, but soon completely defeated the rebel forces.
Idris Debi’s critics argue that his main mistake was that he put the interests of his clan above the interests of the country. Moreover, in fact, his family has always been in the first place for him. He simply did not trust anyone else, remembering how the fate of his predecessors developed. And even he himself admitted that he uses the services of his counterparts, who go on some trips instead of him.
Although traitors were sometimes found in the family. For example, his nephews Tom and Timan Erdimi joined the anti-uncle rebel movement in 2006.
But even in family matters, he knew how to calculate combinations no worse than on the battlefield.
So, for example, in 2006, Idris Debi unexpectedly announced that from now on he should be called Idris Debi Itno. Itno – the surname of his grandfather, who was a representative of the most respected clan of the Zaghawa people. Thus, Debi tried to enlist their additional support, feeling the clouds gathering around him once again.
And in September 2005, Debi married 29-year-old beauty Hinda Mahamat Abderahim Asil, a representative of the Arab tribes of Chad. According to official reports, she was Debi’s fourth wife. Rumored to be the thirteenth.
But be that as it may, in the end she became the first lady. And she not only helped the president to gain additional support from the Arab population, but eventually took the positions of personal secretary and honorary chairman of the women’s division of the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement.
“She is so beautiful! I consult with her before every decision I make, ”Idris Debi said after the wedding.
All members of the large Debi family have found a place in power. One of his sons, Abdelkerim, holds the position of deputy general staff and constantly accompanied his father on the front lines. He is actually the head of the country’s cabinet of ministers. For the official prime minister, a close friend of the first lady, the position is a sinecure.
The leader’s two other children, Hissain and Fatima Idris Debi, are involved in business and oil production.
Another son, Mahamat Idris Debi, became a general, commander of an anti-terrorist special forces detachment and took part in the military operation of the Chadian army in Mali in 2013.
And it was he who, on April 21, 2021, became the head of the interim military council and the person who will rule all of Chad for at least the next 18 months.
If the bullet of one of the militias does not interfere in the history of this country again.