Chad holds presidential election after three years of military rule

 Chad holds a presidential election on Monday meant to end three years of military administration and usher in democracy, but which instead appears likely to solidify the interim president's grip on power. General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno - who seized power in 2021, suspended the constitution, and was installed as the president of the Transitional Military Council - is the favourite among the 10 candidates. The 40-year-old became the central African nation's leader when his father, who had repressively ruled Chad since 1990, died from wounds suffered on the front line as he visited troops in the north battling rebels. The vast country of around 19 million people has never experienced a peaceful transfer of power since its independence from its former colonial power France in 1960. Déby promised that his presidency was only a temporary placeholder until Chad had transitioned to a new democratic government. But he has crushed opposition demonstrations, and voters and observers alike doubt that the election will be fair. Chad, the fifth largest country in Africa and the fourth poorest in the world is located at an important crossroads in the heart of Africa. It has also been an important Western ally in a volatile part of the world. Chad borders Sudan and its Darfur region, which was wracked by ethnic slaughter 20 years ago. Observers say the risk of Sudan's current civil war, which has been raging for over a year, is at high risk of spiralling into a new genocide in Darfur. More than 600,000 people have fled from Sudan to eastern Chad, with more arriving every day. To the west and south, the country borders Niger and Nigeria, where Islamist terrorist militias are active. Meanwhile, fighting with rebels from neighbouring Libya is smouldering in the Sahara in the north. While other military rulers in the region have severed ties with France, Déby retains a relationship with Paris. Last year, France withdrew troops from Niger engaged in anti-terrorist operations and relocated them to Chad. However, Déby's vi sit to Russian President Vladimir Putin in January and a recent letter to Washington questioning the legality of the US military presence in Chad caused a stir. Preliminary election results are to be released on May 21. Source: Ghana News Agency