In a few days, Chadians will go to the polls to choose a new president. In the capital N’Djamena, billboards of incumbent President Idriss Deby dominate the streets and office buildings.
The opposition candidates – outspent and harassed can hardly be seen. The president’s supporters say they are mobilizing hard to get their man re-elected.
“He likes young people, he likes democracy, he likes girls. He simply wants the future of our country. That’s why we love our president. Inchallah, in the first round, we will win 100 percent,” said Amine Mahamat Faki Abbo, a campaign agent for the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement party (MPS).
In the capital alone, the party maintains over 700 campaign offices. The dominance of the media and advertising space has left the opposition crying foul.
“I think he is even drowning out the other candidates here in Ndjamena. I think that in the last week they will do everything to stifle the others. Because when you have about 700 support offices in Ndjamena, I wonder what the other candidates can do against the MPS which is a machine with nearly 100 allied parties,” Dieudonné Djonabaye, president of the High Authority for Media and Audiovisual, a media regulator said.
Albert Pahimi Padacké, the opposition candidate has accused the security forces of attempting to sabotage his rallies.
Survivor in a complex region
Governing a country located in a chronically unstable region, the 68-year-old leader has exhibited spectacular resilience, surviving coups, rebel attacks and foreign invasions.
Using his powerful Zaghawa tribe and the loyal support of his ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement party, Deby has managed to survive central Africa’s complex geopolitics, where tribes and militias control resources such as water, land, and minerals.
He’s been accused of running a one-party state, even though questionable elections have been held from time to time.
During elections or protests, N’Djamena has been accused of cutting off the internet.
A war veteran, Deby has instigated conflict, even encouraged it to his advantage – carefully juggling crises in Sudan, Libya, and the Central African Republic. With a powerful army, he’s seen as an important force for stability in central Africa, the Lake Chad region, and the Sahel.
Chad has so far been spared much of the militant violence that has rocked Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. Deby’s forces have also been credited for dealing Nigerian armed group Boko Haram a blow.
Poverty despite oil revenues
He has managed to keep former colonial master France, the US and China close, often relying on Paris for military support and on Beijing for the country’s financial needs.
His opponents have accused him of squandering the country’s oil revenues on buying influence, and buying weapons while his countrymen live in poverty.
According to the United Nations, Chad has one of the highest levels of hunger in the world – with 66.2 percent of its population of 15.5 million living in severe poverty.
The country ranks 187th out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index.