Should Africans Eulogize Idris Debby Or Calumnize Him?

By Isaac Asabor
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Since it was announced that Chad's President, Idris Debby, had died on the battlefield after three decades in power, the commentaries being expressed by many analysts, political observers and politicians can best be described as mixed. It is not an exaggeration to say that since his death was announced that he has been hailed as a legend and genius by those who knew him to be a fighter and an advocate of anti-terrorism, and no doubt that’s true. But he was also decried to have led a government that acquired a reputation for corruption, nepotism and human rights abuses.

There's no doubt these criticisms are true too, and yet in Africa, anyone that is not predisposed to eulogy is widely condemned for speaking ill of the dead so soon after anyone’s death, or indeed for speaking out at all. And this isn’t surprising. Our cultural attitudes to death and mourning offer no space for criticizing someone who has died, particularly when such person was a leader.

It is shocking to hear cronies of the dead speak so honestly about him or her. Africans prefer obituaries to be tributes, not take-downs. But why is this? Why are we quick to condemn the criticism of the dead, when we have no problem at all with criticism of the living? Many of us have secretly breathed a sigh of relief when a feared or despised leader has finally died. Why is articulating this relief considered to be a taboo?

With the exception of late Gen. Sani Abacha whose death sent Nigerians dancing in the streets, dictators in the hue of late Muammar Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe, who died while in power were considered to be heroes even as their deaths at different point in history elicited wild protests and condemnations.

In Africa, particularly in Nigeria, the most obvious reason to respect the dead is hinged on compassion for the grieving. Africans understand the grief of bereaved people, and hold back from slandering the deceased to avoid compounding their pains. It is for the foregoing reason that the taboo about speaking ill of the dead is more complex than just a concern for the bereaved.

In African tradition, it is believed that degrading the legacy of a deceased person was thought to devalue the life that person had lived, and, in doing, so degrade the quality of their afterlife.

In Nigeria, most of the elderlies eschew the penchant of anyone to resort to launder the misdeeds of the dead. They would rather want the living to treat the dead as they would want to be treated after they die.

At this juncture, permit me to say that the tradition of not speaking ill of the dead in the face of a sophisticated generation will soon be a thing of the past. This is as leaders do not even give a heck to how they live on earth as they unarguably believe that they would not be criticized when they die. To my view, I believe that whether anyone is living or dead, he or she should not be exempted from criticisms. I equally believe that criticism should always be measured and considered, whether the person is living or deceased.

To my view, if the criticism is true, and secondly, if it’s likely to generate any measurable change in the world, it should be voiced out.

As gathered by this writer from the Anti-KleptocracyCoalition of Central Africa, Opening Central Africa (OCA), in one its analytical Findings simply titled, “Deby’s Family And Jobs”, it was revealed that he was extremely nepotistic as he took nepotism to Olympian height.

For instance, his close family members were cited to hold juicy appointments in government circles. For instance, Zakaria Idris Deby, his son, is the Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates while General Mahamat Idris Deby,who until few days ago was the General Director for the Security Service of the State Institutions (GDSSSI) has just been made his successor, and in a similar light SeidIdris Deby, his son, is also a deputy director of Chad’s national refinery. Also listed to be beneficiaries of his nepotistic tendency while alive is Hissein Idris Deby, General Director of Rahad Chad, General Nassouri IdrisDeby President’s Private Chief of Staff, Colonel Kerim Idris Deby’s Military Coordinator at the Department of Foreign Affairs. General Ahmat Youssouf Mahamat Itno, Chief of the General Staff of the Armies, 1st Deputy (CGSA), Sougour Youssouf Mahamat Itno, Ambassador to South Africa and General Oumar Deby Itno General Director of the Strategic Reserve.

Others close relatives he positioned in government are General Ousman Bahar Mahamat Itno, Commander of the Joint Forces Chad, Central Africa, and Sudan., General Hassan Sendel Mahamat Itno Special Advisor to the General Direction of the Security Service Institutions (GDSSI), Hamid Hissein Mahamat Itno, General Coordinator of Water and Forests and Idriss Ibrahim Mahamat Itno, Director General of Budget of the finance minister

Also fingered to have being appointed by Deby are KoubraHissein Mahamat Itno, Managing Director of Chadian Water management, Haoua Hissein Mahamat Itno, Director of the Telecommunications minister, NassourBahar Mahamat Itno First Counsellor, Embassy to Canada and Mariam Hissein Mahamat Itno, Director of Administrative and Financial Affairs of Radio Chad.

Still in the same vein, he abused his power by stooging other relatives like Hamaday Haïga Deby​SNE Administrative and Financial Director, Colonel OusmanKadidja Deby Itno, National Coordinator of the Support Forces, Ministry of Finance, Mahamat Haïga Deby, Administrative and Financial Director of Chad Oil and Gas Corporation, and Colonel Daoud Sendel, Deputy Military Zone Commander at Amtiman in government.

As if that was not enough, other close relatives like Colonel Seby Sendel Mahamat Itno, Regiment Commander AESB, Colonel Sougour KerimDeby​Deputy Director of General Intelligence, Ali Timan Deby Itno, Managing Director of Habitat Bank, Mahamat Timan Deby Itno, General Manager of the Cement Plant, General Sidick Timan Deby Itno, Director of Military Engineering, Abbas Cheno Déby Itno, Governor of the Bank of Central African States (BEAC), SouleymaneErmia Mahamat Itno. General Paying Treasurer of Chad, General Amir Youssouf Mahamat Itno, Commander of the Chad-Sudanese Joint Forces and Hissein cheno DebyItno, Director of Wiretaps at NSA were all positioned in government by the late president.

At the moment, not few people will be wondering, and asking what concerns Nigeria and Nigerians about what is happening in Chad. The answer to the foregoing cannot be farfetched as an African proverb says, “When the eyes shed tears, the nose sympathizes by shedding catarrh with it”. Interpretatively put, Chad is too close to Nigeria, and therefore, leadership anomalies that happened in the country, particularly under the late Idriss Derby cannot be merely waved aside as inconsequential.

At this juncture, given his disposition to nepotism while living, it is expedient to ask, “Should Africans Eulogize Idris Debby Or Calumnize Him?”

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