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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
'Isolated' Deby clings to power
By Stephanie Hancock
BBC News

President Idriss Deby
Mr Deby has been in power for 16 years
The past few months have been some of the toughest of Idriss Deby's 16-year rule, and the president has variously been described as "isolated", "scared" and "finished".

Yet despite these prophecies of doom, the 54-year-old is still clinging onto power.

How has he managed to continuously rule the country many have described as ungovernable?

First and foremost, President Deby is a soldier.

A highly-trained army officer, Deby has never really left his military roots behind.

Whenever his regime is under pressure, he has been quick to don his military fatigues and make a public appearance, reminding people of his military prowess.

Corruption accusations

Deby came to power in 1990, after ousting the former President Hissene Habre in a coup. He is said to have a brilliant military mind, and he planned several elaborate coups before finally succeeding.

So where did it all go wrong?

Six years after he took power, Deby set up Chad's first ever multi-party political system.

But it wasn't long however before accusations of corruption and political repression began to dog his presidency.

Chad rebels (Pic: Opheera McDoom)
The president's regime is battling an armed campaign from rebels

Critics say his single biggest failure is the way he has put his clan before his country.

Deby is a Zaghawa, an ethnic group which straddles the Chad-Sudan border. But Chad is a vast country, and there are more than 100 different ethnic groups, and the Zaghawa are a tiny minority.

Despite this, President Deby has packed his government and armed forces with members of his own clan.

With such blatant cronyism, critics say it was only ever a matter of time before things fell apart.

Name change

President Deby is known as a stubborn man, who often ignores his advisors. But he has now been deserted by most of his clan, who recognise - even when the president cannot - that his strategy has failed.

Recently, he has made changes in his personal life. He has just taken a new - and, rumour has it, extremely attractive - third wife.

And just a few weeks ago he decided to change his name to Idriss Deby Itno. Itno is a traditional Zaghawan name, and cynics say it is an attempt to appease his clan.

One of the favourite pastimes of Chadians is to speculate on the health of their president.

He is known to have liver problems, and regularly flies to Paris for treatment.

Soldiers in N'Djamena on Thursday
Rebels have launched attacks against the capital N'Djamena

Those who know President Deby well say that, battle-hardened as he is, the president is scared about his future.

As one person put it: "I don't think the president sleeps at night."

But whenever the press write President Deby off, he somehow seems to bounce back.

Few believe President Deby will survive as leader of the country past the elections, which are just weeks away.

But the former soldier, with his shrewd mind and stubborn attitude, almost certainly disagrees.


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