Chadian government thwarts attempted coup
Security forces in Chad foiled an attempted coup against President Idriss Deby (pictured), Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakary said Wednesday, adding that plans to “destabilise” the government had been in the works for months.
Security forces in Chad thwarted an attempted coup against President Idriss Deby’s government, the West African nation’s communications minister announced late Wednesday, after a number of arrests were made within the military in connection with the plot.
“Today, May 1, a group of individuals with bad intentions sought to carry out an action to destabilise the institutions of the republic,” Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakary read in a statement broadcast on state-owned television. “They did not count on the valiant security forces who have tracked them since December 2012 and who, this morning, neutralised them.”
The impoverished former French colony has a long history of coups and rebellions, and Deby himself led rebel troops into the capital N’Djamena in 1990 to seize power.
He has since won four elections and cast himself as a key ally of the West against al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants across the vast, arid Sahel region.
Chad’s security services carried out a number of arrests within the ranks of the army on Wednesday, military sources told the Reuters news agency, while at least one Member of Parliament, opposition politician Saleh Maki, was also detained.
“He called me to say that he had been arrested,” Maki’s wife, Flmata Saleh, told FRANCE 24. “Outside the house there were a lot of police with two vehicles. They went into the courtyard and they took him with them. I know my husband well and he wouldn’t do this. He didn’t do anything. We are waiting to see what they are going to say.”
Bakary said that those arrested in connection with the failed coup attempt had been handed over to the state prosecutor. He did not, however, reveal their identities or give further details of the plot.
Possible suspects behind the coup
Deby deployed around 2,000 troops to Mali earlier this year to help drive out Islamist fighters who had seized the northern two-thirds of the country, earning him the gratitude of France, which spearheaded the operation there.
Douglas Yates, a political science professor at the American University in Paris, said that the coup may have been timed to coincide with the fact that Chad’s forces are still tied up in a conflict several thousands of kilometres away, leaving the government vulnerable.
“Idriss Deby’s elite troops are out of the country. They’re not even next door, they’re in Mali and would require air transport to get them back,” Yates told FRANCE 24. “This might have been an opportunity for other members of the army, particularly members of Idriss Deby’s own Zaghawa ethnic clan – [which] staged three of the last four coups – to have come in.”
Yates also speculated, however, that given Deby’s current high standing with France, the Chadian president may have seen the failed coup as a perfect opportunity to rid himself of any potential political opponents, such as Saleh.
“[It] is just that [Deby] is taking advantage of a particular moment in time when he has good public relations in the West; where he has, if you will, a free hand to clean house and get rid of plausible rivals. Mr. Saleh was a former presidential contender. This is someone who directly threatens Idriss Deby’s attempt to be president for life,” Yates said.
He went on to say that because of Chad’s central role in Mali, “it’s unlikely until more evidence comes in that France would say anything about the arrest of the major democratic opposition leader.”
However, others have also pointed out that Deby has plenty of enemies both at home and abroad.
The UFR, a Chadian rebel coalition that laid down its weapons in 2010, warned in March that it would re-launch its rebellion, after Deby failed to enter talks with the group.
Last week, Deby accused neighbouring Libya of allowing Chadian mercenaries to set up a training camp from where they could seek to destabilise his country, a charge Libyan authorities rejected.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)