The Chadian government on Wednesday said it had thwarted an attempt by army defectors to shoot down President Idriss Deby’s plane on his return from a trip abroad.
The government said security forces on Tuesday captured at least two military officers involved in the coup attempt, while several other plotters got away.
A 15 March government statement named seven military officers who allegedly “aimed to shoot down” Deby’s plane as he returned from a summit of central African leaders in Equatorial Guinea.
“Having been informed of the intentions of these coup plotters, government defence and security forces stepped in to stop them,” Communications Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said in the statement.
Deby returned to the capital, N’djamena, on Tuesday evening, according to the statement.
The alleged coup attempt comes a month and a half ahead of a scheduled presidential election in which Deby is expected to run thanks to a disputed constitutional amendment passed last year that scrapped a two-term limit.
Sources in N’djamena said on Wednesday that the city was calm and people were going about their business as usual, though Chad's mobile phone network cut off on Tuesday night and was still down as of Wednesday evening. Tension has reigned in the capital for months in part because of a rebel movement in the east vowing to oust Deby, who has already faced coup attempts in the past.
Since October 2005 waves of Chadian soldiers and military officers have deserted their posts and joined rebels in the eastern part of Chad bordering Sudan’s conflict-ridden Darfur region. Several rebel groups in December formed an alliance, including the Platform for Change, National Unity and Democracy (known by its French acronym SCUD) formed by Chadian army deserters and led by Yaya Dillo Djerou, and the Rally for Democracy and Liberty led by Mahamat Nour.
Deby, a former army commander who initially took power in a coup in 1990 and has since won two presidential polls, also faces intractable relations with Sudan, which he accuses of backing insurgents.
The government communique named a number of people living abroad as instigators in Tuesday’s alleged coup attempt, including Tom and Timan Erdimi, relatives of Deby and ex government aides. In December the Erdimi brothers issued a statement saying they were joining efforts to put down Deby.
The statement says international arrest warrants have already been issued for those coup plotters living in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Sudan and the United States, appealing for those countries’ cooperation.
A Chadian journalist who declined to be named said he will be surprised if Deby makes it to the 3 May election. “He escapes, he escapes, he escapes - but until when?”
He said despite widespread dismay over plans to hold elections in early May amid severe social and military unrest, Deby wants to push ahead. “He wants to go to the election as if everything’s fine. But the country’s social, economic, and military situation is rotten to the core.”