Among the mourners were French President Emmanuel Macron, who relied on the longtime strongman as a pivot in the war against Islamist militants, and a host of African presidents and prime ministers.
Rebel forces meanwhile said their command center was bombed Wednesday night in an attempt to kill their own leader.
The rebels poured south this month across the vast desert nation from their bases in Libya to N’Djamena and say they are approximately 200-300 kilometers (125-190 miles) from the capital. They called a temporary ceasefire to allow for Deby’s funeral.
Before the ceremony on Friday morning, Macron and regional leaders met with Deby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, and members of the military transition council that took over N’Djamena.
They offered their common support for a civilian-military transition in Chad for the sake of regional stability, a French presidency source said.
“Unity of views. The G5 is mobilized alongside Chad,” the source said.
The so-called G5 Sahel countries are Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, all besieged by Islamist militant threats.
37-year-old Mahamat Idriss Deby, who holds the rank of general, dissolved parliament and assumed the post of president and commander of the armed forces.
The self-proclaimed council said it would hold democratic elections in 18 months. But opposition leaders condemned the takeover as a coup and called for a campaign of civil disobedience, while an army general said many officers were also opposed to the transition plan. The unions also called the workers’ strike.
The late president, whose 30-year rule was marked by repression, was an ally of Western powers and his death raised concerns that further unrest and uncertainty will hamper the fight against Islamist militants that are spreading across Africa. .
Thousands of people gathered in a solemn mood in N’Djamena’s main Place de la Nation to pay homage to him.
The dignitaries exchanged greetings on the red carpets under the silver arches of the square, while the women dressed in black wiped their tears.
Deby’s coffin, wrapped in a national flag, was transported in a military pickup truck flanked by an escort of motorcyclists. A loud cry swelled from the crowd as he arrived in the square and a salute of 21 guns boomed throughout the city. Macron was the first dignitary to approach the coffin, bowing before it.
“He has protected us for so long that we came today to wish him eternal rest. A well deserved rest,” said Hassan Adoum, a resident of N’Djamena, who attended the ceremony.
On the front line
Rebels from the Chad Front for Change and Concord (FACT) said warplanes bombed their center Wednesday night in an attempt to kill their leader, Mahamat Mahadi Ali. They accused France of supporting the raid with air surveillance.
“Our command was bombed by order of the military junta with the complicity of foreign agencies present in our country”, reads a FACT statement.
The group, formed by dissident officers in 2016 and unrelated to Islamists, did not specify where the command post was located or provide details of any casualties or damage.
The French army said Friday it had not carried out air strikes in Chad this week. The Chadian army did not respond to a request for comment.
French diplomatic and military sources have indicated that Paris would seriously consider the possibility of intervening if the rebels were to approach N’Djamena and threaten the stability of the country, a former French colony.
“Things heat up and that could force us to intervene at some point,” a French diplomatic source told Reuters. “We have seen from Central Africa that it is more difficult to stabilize a country once chaos is underway.”
An immediate goal was to convince Mahamat Idriss Deby to shorten the transition period and forge unity within the establishment, the source said.