A funeral ceremony for late President Idriss Deby has been held in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, with thousands of people paying their respect to the leader who died of wounds sustained while leading his troops against a rebel offensive.
French President Emmanuel Macron and several African leaders were present at the ceremony on Friday, despite rebel warnings they should not attend for security reasons.
Macron pledged support for the country’s “stability and integrity”, but also urged his military successors to steer a smooth return to civilian rule.
“The people of the region enjoy a peace pact with France. We have to make sure the pact lives on – and that of liberty and independence,” Macron said.
“France will not let anybody question or threatened, today or tomorrow, Chad’s stability and territorial integrity. France will be here to ensure that the promise, which was made will be realised for all patriots. Stability, inclusiveness, dialogue and democratic transition – this is what we want. We are by your side,” he added.
Paris’ support for the military takeover following Deby’s death did not come as a surprise to the region’s observers.
“The strategy has been to promote the military apparatus as the only response to the challenges raised by armed groups. Chad had the only army in the region that was willing and able to project troops elsewhere. Therefore, Chad became very important in the military Barkhane operation,” Roland Marchal, a researcher at Science Po Centre for International Studies, told Al Jazeera.
Chad’s armed forces stunned the nation on Tuesday by announcing that Deby had died from wounds suffered while leading soldiers on the front line against Libya-based Chadian rebels advancing from the north towards Ndjamena. He was 68.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from N’Djamena, said there was heavy deployment of troops in the face security concerns.
“Since Thursday, there was a deployment of troops in the streets and around the presidential palace as well as tanks to seal the major roads ahead of the arrival of heads of states,” she added.
Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors, holding on to power despite rebellions that reached as far as his palace gates.