In tribute to friend Deby, Macron says France will not tolerate threats to Chad

Funeral of late Chad's President Deby in N'Djamena
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the state funeral for the late Chadian President Idriss Deby in N'Djamena, Chad April 23, 2021. Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS, April 23 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to late Chadian President Idriss Deby at his funeral on Friday and said Paris would not let anybody threaten the stability and integrity of its former colony as it made a transition to democracy.

Deby, a close Western ally, was killed in a battle with rebels on Monday, raising worries that more turmoil and uncertainty will hamper the fight against Islamist militants across the Sahel region.

"France will not let anybody put into question or threaten today or tomorrow Chad's stability and integrity," Macron said during a speech at Deby's funeral.

The French president was seated for the ceremony next to Deby's son Mahamat Idriss Deby, who along with a military council has taken charge in N'Djamena and said it would restore civilian rule within 18 months.

"France will also be there to keep alive without waiting the promise of a peaceful Chad creating a place for all of its children and components," Macron said. "The transition will have this role to play: stability, inclusion, dialogue and democratic transition. We are and will stand alongside you."

Recalling the long ties between France and West Africa that Macron said had bound them, he paid his respects to Deby, a "friend" and "courageous" soldier, who had given his life to his country.

"I share the bereavement of a nation touched to its core by the sacrifice of its first soldier and I share the bereavement of a loyal friend and ally because you were the first to respond to the call of regional countries to defend Africa against armed terrorism in the Sahel in 2013," he said referring to Chad forces joining France in Mali to counter an Islamist insurgency.

Deby took power in a rebellion and ruled Chad for 30 years. Human rights groups have accused France and other Western powers of turning a blind eye to his government's political repression because of its security co-operation.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Toby Chopra

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.