France faces a dilemma in its former colony with the death of long-term Chadian President Idriss Déby. As African Arguments, a scholarly nonpartisan publication from the Royal African Society reports, France is concerned that Déby’s death may lead to further instability in the Sahel, a region already plagued with insurgencies, rebellions, narcotrafficking, and environmental degradation related to global warming. Thus, France was initially very supportive of Déby’s son, General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, being installed as Chad’s new president for an 18-month transitional period as it offers the stability that goes with continuity. However, this proposed 18-month transitional period goes against Chad’s constitution, which calls for an election in 90 days. With cries from the local populace and elsewhere for democratic rule to be implemented, France found itself in the awkward position of deciding how much to support continuity and stability, which would help in the fight against terrorism, versus supporting the constitution and democracy.
France has a decades long relationship with the Déby family, but with Chadians protesting the way Déby’s son was given the presidency, along with rising anti-French sentiment across much of the Sahel, France has decided to soften its initial stance. According to the article Macron recently called for “a civilian national unity government that should lead to elections within an 18-month delay.” It is not what the Chad constitution states should happen, nor does it necessarily provide for long-term continuity, but at least for now, it is France’s answer to a political dilemma with direct security implications in Chad and the region.
Following Déby’s sudden demise, it was soon clear that France’s strategy is to prioritize continuity at all costs. At the funeral on 23 April, Macron insisted that “France will not let anybody put into question or threaten today or tomorrow Chad’s stability and integrity.
Source: Kyrre Berland and Chris Brew, “Chad: France firmly backs continuity, but will the people?” African Arguments (a scholarly nonpartisan publication from the Royal African Society), 28 April 2021. https://africanarguments.org/2021/04/chad-france-firmly-backs-continuity-but-willthe-people/
Following Déby’s sudden demise, it was soon clear that France’s strategy is to prioritize continuity at all costs. At the funeral on 23 April, Macron insisted that “France will not let anybody put into question or threaten today or tomorrow Chad’s stability and integrity”.
On 27 April, however, Macron shifted France’s position. In a statement with AU Chair Félix Tshisekedi of the DR Congo, the two leaders called for “a civilian national unity government that should lead to elections within an 18-month delay”. They condemned political repression and violence against civilians. This is still not what the constitution mandates, but in softening its unwavering support for army, France may be hoping that the Chadian citizens will forget its role in bolstering and legitimizing the military council. The AU could see this as an opportunity to score a diplomatic win and position themselves on the side of a civilian transition.
Maintaining internal security will also be a challenge. Chad’s military council has rejected the possibility of talks with FACT, which has vowed to lay siege on N’Djamena. To protect the regime, reports have emerged of Chadian troops being ordered to return home, a move that could drastically alter counter-insurgency operations and potentially lead to the collapse of the Chadian front against Islamist insurgencies.