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Chad's Military Says President Killed On Battlefield


Meanwhile, in other news, the president of Chad, Idriss Deby, has died. He ruled the country for more than 30 years. He was 68. He died on the front line, according to an army spokesman, while battling rebel forces. Now, Deby leaves behind a complex legacy, one that our next guest says prioritized the fight against religious extremists at the expense of the country's human rights. Well, joining us to talk about this is Cameron Hudson, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Hi there.


KELLY: So let's start with President Deby's death and what exactly happened, what we know. What was he doing on the battlefield?

HUDSON: Well, it was not unlike President Deby to go to the front lines of battles. He had done this on a number of occasions. And he was really known throughout the region as a battlefield commander. He came of age battling (inaudible) like President Deby to go to the front lines of battles. He had done this on a number of occasions. And he was really known (inaudible) - known figure for the '80s and '90s, and so he would often go and try to rally his troops on the front lines. His troops had been beaten back by a rebel incursion over the course of the last week, and he was there really trying to rally them to make a final stand before those rebels could push on to the capital.

KELLY: I mentioned his complex legacy. I know the U.S., France, other Western countries have seen him, saw him as an ally in the fight against groups like Boko Haram, the Islamic State, radical extremist groups. What will be the impact of his death on the region, on security in that part of Africa?

Cameron Hudson, I'm hoping you're with us. We're having a little bit of a glitch on your line. Oh - if I could ask you just to start that answer over, Mr. Hudson. Forgive me. We're having a little bit of trouble with the line. If you could just start over, what will be the impact on security implications in the region?

HUDSON: Well, it'll be massive because he sat at the crossroads of a number of different conflicts. To his west was the instability in Darfur; to his east, the instability coming out of the Sahel region; to the south, the Boko Haram threat and to the north, Libya, which has been a failed state for the better part of the past decade. And he was a force in all of those conflicts trying to bring stability, working with the international community to deploy Chadian forces into those conflicts and to stem the tide of instability that was growing across the region. So his absence will be felt in all of those theaters of battle.

KELLY: It's his son, his 37-year-old son, who is going to take over leading the country. Is that right? What do we know about him?

HUDSON: Well, we don't know much. He was a drop-out of a French military school. He's 37 years old and has been running the sort of presidential guard around his father. But he certainly doesn't have the battle testing that his father did. And it's not clear that the country is really going to allow themselves to be ruled by another Deby going forward. So I think there's a lot of open question right now as to whether or not he can maintain the loyalty of the army after his father's passing and whether he can maintain the loyalty of the citizenry who are really disgruntled and disenfranchised after 30 years of autocratic rule under his father.

KELLY: We just have a few seconds left. But in a sentence or two, what's the top thing you will be watching for to see where Chad might be headed next?

HUDSON: Well, I think the role of the international community and whether or not you see French and U.S. influences come in to try to prop up and create a false sense of stability right now.

KELLY: That is Cameron Hudson, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Thank you for sharing your expertise.

HUDSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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