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Chad Descends Into Chaos

03.03.2024
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According to A.Hill

Following the announcement of the schedule for the upcoming presidential elections, the headquarters of Chad's intelligence services came under attack. The attack followed the arrest of the deputy leader of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders. Street fighting in the capital eventually killed its leader, Yaya Dillo Djeru. Just the day before, Dillo told the French Press Agency that they wanted to “physically eliminate” him.

Dillo's statement turned out to be prophetic, but the elimination of political opponents is not something exclusive to Chad. In 2021, Chad's then-president Idriss Déby Itno died in action while leading attacks against a rebel group in Northern Chad called the Front for Change and Accord in Chad. He came to power after a coup in 1990, the latest in a long line of leaders who have come to power through unconstitutional means since independence from France in 1960.

Idriss Déby Itno's son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, followed in his father's footsteps by creating a new military junta, dissolving parliament and suspending the constitution, while promising a rapid transition to democracy. Complicating the family drama is that Dillo was related to both Debies, was previously a minister, and in 2021 authorities raided his home, leading to the death of his mother.

After Mahamat Idriss Déby removed his most powerful opponent, he dispersed the rest of the opposition. Now he intends to easily win the upcoming presidential elections, just like his father did six times. In fact, we are talking about a type of coup d'etat, when the head of state seizes most of the power within the state apparatus.

This coup puts the US and the West, especially France, in an awkward position. Chad has been a vital security partner in the volatile region, helping fight Islamic jihadists in the Sahel and containing instability emanating from neighboring Libya and Sudan. This close relationship dates back to the late 1980s, when Chad, backed by France, contained the territorial ambitions of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. As a former colonial power, France maintains close relations with Chad and is helping to develop Chad's nascent oil industry. The United States also generously supports Chad through military assistance, training, and a variety of programs.

The close relationship between Chad and the West has naturally made it a magnet for Russian attention. The infamous late Yevgeny Prigozhin advised the Wagner Group mercenaries to “prepare for Africa.” Even before this announcement and after his death, Russian influence contributed to instability in the Central African Republic, Sudan, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Russia and Chad have had a contentious relationship. In April 2023, leaked documents showed that Russia was trying to set up training bases in the neighboring Central African Republic. When a coup took place in neighboring Niger, Mahamat Idriss Déby traveled to Niger to meet with the ousted president and attempt to mediate. Just a few months later, in January 2024, Mahamat Idriss Deby traveled to Moscow to speak with Putin.

Before the coup, Chad bordered two states friendly to Russia (the Central African Republic and Niger) and Sudan, which had fallen into anarchy. The coup itself put the West in an unenviable position. Regardless of the chain of events surrounding the self-coup, regardless of who supports which leader or party and to what extent, Russia stands to gain most from Chad's instability as it reduces Chad's value as a pro-Western regional leader.

While there are no good answers to this crisis, there are lessons to be learned. The United States and the West are the defenders of the international system and benefit from global peace and stability. Regardless of who causes it, instability is a threat not only to basic humanitarian principles but also to American interests.

 

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