The United States has ordered its insignificant diplomats from Chad over fears of rebel attacks on the capital, as early election results show that President Idris Debbie is ready to continue his three-year rule of the African nation.
As armed groups appear to be advancing on the capital, N’Djamena, the US State Department on Saturday ordered insignificant diplomats and families of US personnel to leave the country.
“Due to their growing proximity to N’Djamena and the possibility of violence in the city, insignificant US government officials have been ordered to leave Chad by a commercial airline.”
Four tanks and several soldiers were stationed at the northern entrance to N’Djamena on Saturday night, where military vehicles continued to move towards the fighting, a AFP journalist said.
The Chadian army said on Saturday that it had “completely destroyed” a column of Libyan-based rebels who attacked the country on April 11, the day of the presidential election.
Soldiers have been looking for the last of the rebels, army spokesman Azem Bermandoa Aguna said in a statement read on national television.
“The adventure of the Libyan mercenaries is over, as announced,” Communications Minister and Government Spokesman Sheriff Mahamat Zene said on Twitter.
On Saturday, the UK government said on its travel advice website that two convoys of rebels were heading to N’Djamena. One had passed the city of Faya, about 770 km (478 miles) northeast of the capital, and another had been spotted approaching the city of Mao, about 220 km to the north.
In the Tibesti Mountains near the Libyan border, fighting between rebels and the army is frequent. French air strikes were needed to stop the invasion there in early 2019, until a rebel attack reached the gates of the presidential palace in February 2008 before being repulsed by French support.
Meanwhile, the partial provisional results of the April 11 election show Debbie with a strong early lead, winning a majority in all but one of the 51 departments announced so far. He has provided a majority in the other, with 61 departments remaining, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).
Kilmapone Larme, head of logistics at the commission, said they had not yet received more than 30% of the results.
An ally of Western powers in the fight against Islamist militants in West and Central Africa, Debbie is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, but there are signs of growing dissatisfaction with his work with the country’s oil wealth.
In recent years, the Chadian government has been forced to cut public spending due to low oil prices, whose main exports are causing labor strikes.
Opposition leaders have called on their supporters to boycott last week’s polls.
“By noon, polling stations were almost empty in almost every city in the country, but CENI had just come up with fictitious results to fool children,” Yakin Abderaman Sakin, leader of the opposition Reform Party, told Reuters.
“We do not recognize this result.”
Reuters, Agence-France Presse and the Associated Press contributed to this report