Head of the military junta and president of Chad, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, left N’Djamena on Sunday for a “friendship and working visit” to France, his office announced.
The 37-year-old four-star general has been leading a Transitional Military Council (TMC) of 15 generals since the death of his father, Idriss Déby Itno, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 30 years, was announced on 20 April.
“The president of the transitional military council, president of the Republic, head of state, Lieutenant General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, left N’Djamena this morning, bound for Paris”, to make “a visit of friendship and work”, reads a statement from the communication service of the Chadian presidency, which gives no details on the program.
On Sunday evening, a dinner is planned between Mahamat Déby and French President Emmanuel Macron, a member of the Chadian delegation told AFP on condition of anonymity.
France, the former colonial power in Chad, is the third country visited by the head of the military junta since he took power, after Niger and Nigeria.
On 20 April, the CMT proclaimed its leader President of the Republic, dissolved the Parliament and the government and abrogated the Constitution. It promised “free and transparent” elections after a transition period of 18 months renewable once.
The international community, led by the African Union (AU) and France, demanded that this period should not exceed 18 months. However, at the end of June, Mahamat Déby hinted that he would not rule out an extension.
The Chadian army is one of the main pillars in the fight against jihadist groups in the Sahel. At Idriss Déby’s funeral, Macron was the only Western head of state to go to N’Djamena to pay a heartfelt tribute to the deceased and to meet his son and successor.
Macron recently announced a gradual French military disengagement from the Sahel. The French anti-jihadist force Barkhane (currently 5,100 men) will disappear in favour of a tightened device, focused on the fight against terrorism and the accompaniment in combat of local armies.