Chad’s veteran leader Idriss Deby has won a sixth term as president, provisional election results showed on Monday, as the army said it had beaten back a column of insurgents advancing on the capital N’Djamena.
Deby, 68, took 79.3% of the vote from the 11 April election after top opposition leaders boycotted to protest his efforts to extend his 30 years in power.
Deby seized power in an armed rebellion in 1990. He is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders and a close ally of Western powers battling Islamist militants in West and Central Africa.
But he has faced repeated insurgencies in the desert north and is also dealing with mounting public discontent over his management of oil wealth and crackdowns on opponents.
The rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), which is based across the northern frontier with Libya, made inroads south after attacking a border post on election day and calling for an end to Deby’s presidency.
But it appeared to suffer a sharp setback over the weekend. Chad’s military spokesman Azem Bermendao Agouna told Reuters army troops had killed more than 300 insurgents and captured 150 on Saturday in Kanem province, around 300 km from N’Djamena. Five government soldiers were killed and 36 were injured, he said.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the tallies of casualties or reach the insurgents. The rebels’ leader, Mahamat Mahadi Ali, told Radio France Internationale (RFI) on Monday that his forces had made “a strategic retreat”.
Chadian state television on Sunday showed images of burnt vehicles and a small number of corpses dusted with sand. A crowd of soldiers cheered next to what state television said was dozens of captured rebel fighters, who sat with their hands tied behind their backs.
The unrest has raised alarm bells among Western countries which have seen Deby as an ally in the fight against Islamist extremist groups, including Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin and groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel.
The United States ordered all of its non-essential embassy staff to leave the country on Saturday. The British government had urged its citizens to leave the previous day.