Coup d’etat in Chad: what will happen now?

After the death of the historic Chad’s President Idriss Deby, the situation has become even more unstable. What future for the country?

People attend the state funeral of late Chadian President Idriss Deby in N'Djamena, Chad, April 23, 2021. Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool via REUTERS

Last 20th April, Chad’s President Idriss Deby died from injuries sustained on the frontlines in the north of the country where he had gone to visit soldiers fighting rebels, after his disputed victory in the last elections.

Chad and Sahel: an unstable but fundamental area for France

The Army immediately declared that the President had decided to command his army on the frontlines against the rebels and was thus fatally wounded, but although several days have passed, the full details of Deby’s death are not yet entirely clear.

Chad has always been a key partner for France, as it hosts the headquarters of Operation Barkhane, the French action in the Sahel to fight the Jihadists. It is also one of the most important bases for the United Nations, which has 1200 soldiers present to strengthen the joint cross-border force created by the G5 Sahel countries. In exchange for this military aid, France has always ignored human rights violations, before Deby’s death, and helped the government of Chad to reject the rebels' demonstrations. Treating instability in the region as an anti-terrorism problem to be addressed by military action in support of client regimes rather than as a profound failure of governance and economic development, exacerbated by climate change and rapid population growth, France has continued a very complicated war in this part of Africa.

France’s partners in the European Union, which spend around one billion euros a year on a major development, security training and humanitarian program in the Sahel, should intervene where France has failed. They must insist that, in return for continued budget support, governments implement their reform commitments, put an end to impunity for the atrocities of their soldiers and allied militias and restore public services in areas taken from the rebels.

After the death of the historic President, the situation has become even more unstable since his son was named successor, which many experts have disputed, citing provisions in Chad’s law that state the President of Parliament should have taken power after the death of Deby instead of his son. The law also provides that within 40 days there should be new elections. However, the new military government immediately announced the dissolution of the Assembly and has confirmed Derby’s son as the new president.

What future for Chad?

During the funeral of the President Deby in N’Djamena, attended by several heads of state, French President Emmanuel Macron immediately ruled out the withdrawal of five thousand French soldiers fighting in western Sahel. He also said that the need to maintain French troops here is linked to changes that must take place with the help of strategic partners. The conflict in the western part of the Sahel largely between state forces and armed groups linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda has devastated the area, forcing millions of people to leave their homes in the last 10 years. Furthermore, the deterioration of the security situation has created a huge humanitarian crisis by destroying fragile agricultural economies and slowing down humanitarian aid.

The military council itself, headed by Mahmat Idriss Deby, son of the former President, said that it has no intention of negotiating with the Front for Chad’s Change and Concord ( FACT). In support of this decision, President Macron and also the Democratic Republic of Congo announced their support of new elections in Chad within the next 18 months and the establishment of a civilian-military transition government in the interim.

After the coup, the situation has become even more complex and France is acting alone in a very wide area. Understanding what will happen and who will be the future head of Chad is extremely difficult, especially since threats from the military have prevented civil demonstrations and many voting-aged citizens have already fled the country.

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