Chad: Military government’s leading opponent Yaya Dillo Djérou dies

Yaya Dillo Djerou, dressed in white. Screenshot from the video “Tchad : l'opposant Yaya Dillo tué” on the TV5MONDE Info YouTube channel. Fair use.

In Chad, the death of political opponent, Yaya Dillo Djérou, just two months ahead of the 2024 presidential elections has been a major setback for the Chadian opposition.

On February 27, 2024, the National Election Management Agency (ANGE) announced that Chadian citizens would elect their next leader at the presidential elections on May 6, 2024. These elections should mark the end of the transition period that began with the death of president Idriss Déby Itno, on April 20, 2021 and has been led by, Mahamat Idriss Déby.

However, the Chadian opposition lost a prominent figure during this pre-electoral campaign. On February 28, 2024, the country's leading opponent Yaya Dillo Djérou, died.

Read: Chad Does the appointment of opposition figure, Succès Masra, as prime minister, signal the end of this political crisis?

Who was Yaya Dillo Djérou?

The former Chadian opposition leader Yaya Dillo Djérou was the nephew of Idriss Déby Itno, and once a member of the current regime’s inner circle.  Before parting ways in early 2021, Djérou and Itno worked together for many years. Between 1989 and 1990, Djérou also fought as an active member of the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), a rebellion movement that former opponent Itno, led to overthrow Hissène Habré, served also imposed himself as a rebel and served as president of Chad from 1982 to 1990. After completing his studies in Canada, Dillo, as he is more commonly known, returned to Chad and officially formed an alliance with  Itno. However, this alliance came to an end during the COVID-19 pandemic when the administration accused Dillo of defaming the country’s first lady, Hinda Déby Itno.

Upon receiving a judicial summons, Dillo refused to respond to these allegations. On February 27, 2021, his home came under attack. He lost his mother and son during these clashes. Dillo subsequently fled Chad and sought exile in Belgium. Before leaving, he submitted his candidacy for the Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF) in the April 2021 presidential election. However, the Supreme Court declared his candidacy invalid.

Following the death of Idriss Déby Itno, on April 20, 2021, Dillo returned to Chad. He launched several initiatives to rally the opposition and show a united front in the May 2024 presidential elections. In so doing, he won the support of Saleh Deby Itno, the paternal uncle of the country’s current head of state, Mahamat Idriss Déby.

Circumstances surrounding Yaya Dillo Djérou’s death

On February 27, gunshots rang out during an attack on Chad’s National Security Agency (ANSE) in the country’s capital city, N'Djaména. This attack followed the arrest of the PSF finance secretary, Ahmed Torabi, who was accused of an assassination attempt against, Samir Adam Annour, the president of the Supreme Court of Chad, on February 19. Dillo, who was the PSF leader, rejected these accusations, describing the situation as “staged.”

According to the Chadian government, members of the PSF led the attack on the National Security Agency. On February 28, the armed forces stormed the party’s headquarters in retaliation, thus leaving at least ten dead or injured. Out of the seven deaths, four were members of  the armed forces and three were members of  the PSF, including Yaya Dillon Djérou himself. The armed forces also arrested Saleh Déby Itno.

Max Kemkoye, head of the Consultation Group of Political Actors (GCAP) agrees with the former opposition party members. In this video by French media outlet, Tv5monde, he explains:

The government denies this accusation of the late opponent’s political party members. In the same Tv5Monde article, Abderaman Koulamallah, minister of communication, states that it was Dillo who started the exchange of fire in which he died:

Nous n'avons exécuté personne. Il a refusé de se rendre, il y a eu des échanges de balles, il n'y a pas eu d'exécution dans cet assaut qui a fait quatre morts chez les militaires et trois dans le camp de M. Dillo. Il avait lui-même tiré sur les forces de l'ordre.

We didn’t execute anyone. He refused to surrender. There was an exchange of bullets, but there was no execution in this assault, which left four dead in the military and three in Mr. Dillo’s camp. He had opened fire on the security forces himself.

On X (formerly Twitter), Togolese politician, Nathaniel Olympio, compared Yaya Dillo Djérou’s death to that of Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, another member of the Chadian opposition who disappeared in 2008. He wrote:

#Tchad: The member of the political opposition, Yaya Dillo, who was a major rival of the head of state, General Mahamat Kaka Déby Itno, in the upcoming presidential election, died of a gunshot wound to the head at his party’s headquarters. An armed battle unfolded in the capital, N’Djaména.
This takes us back to February 2008. During the reign of Idriss Déby Itno, the opposition leader and mathematician Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh was kidnapped in an armed battle in the capital. We never saw him again. Being an opposition leader shouldn’t be a matter of life and death. Bringing peace to Chad is becoming a matter of urgency. The Economic Community of Central African States @CEEAC_ECCAS must work towards this goal and the @_AfricanUnion  cannot remain inactive on this matter

— Nathaniel Olympio (@nathanielolymp) March 1, 2024

On March 1, two days after the assault, the PSF’s party headquarters was demolished by order of the country’s authorities.

Since the referendum on the adoption of Chad‘s new constitution in December 2023, the political environment has become somewhat tense in this country. In the Reporters Without Borders 2023 Index, Chad ranked 109 out of 180 countries. This ranking thereby highlights the restrictions on the country’s freedom of speech.

Read: The announced return of opposition presidential candidate: An analysis with  Bienvenue Madjilem

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