Chadian police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters who took to the streets of the capital and other towns in an anti-French protest that saw the destruction of some French-linked businesses. Chadian civil society coalition Wakit Tamma called the protest to denounce France’s backing of the Transitional Military Council that seized power following the battlefield death of President Idriss Deby in April 2021, a spokesman said.
Deby’s son Mahamat Idriss is leading the military transition which is yet to timetable a return to constitutional rule. Protesters vandalised several petrol stations in N’djamena operated by French oil major TotalEnergies. Some torched French flags, while a Russian flag was hoisted on a mast in central N’djamena, according to a Reuters reporter.
As France’s influence wanes in its former colonies, recent protests in countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have seen calls for increased military ties with Russia instead of France. Chad is seen as a strong ally of the West in the fight against Islamist militants. Several Western countries, including France, maintain troops at bases in the country.
Chad’s capital is the central command hub for France’s counter-terrorism operation in West Africa. Around 1,000 French troops are based there.
Chad joins a growing list of French West African states looking to shed their post-colonial ties with Paris but unlike Mali, this anti-French sentiment appears not to be shared by the country’s government. These feelings have not gone unnoticed in the Élysée Palace. In June 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron told West African leaders to ignore growing anti-French sentiment if they wanted France’s military to continue its operations against Islamist militants.
In March 2021, French supermarkets, petrol stations, and mobile phone booths in Senegal were torched and looted as largely peaceful protests against rampant inequality, government corruption, and stringent coronavirus restrictions morphed into anger against the former colonial power. China, Russia, and Turkey have been accused by France of fomenting these sentiments.
Such accusations do not take into account that anti-French feelings are growing precisely because Françafrique has, in reality, delivered prosperity only to France and the ruling caste in participating countries. In this battle for influence playing out across the Sahel, Chad’s unique position as a bastion of the international community’s fight against armed groups in the region will be thrust into the spotlight.
The government of Idris Deby Jr which came into power following the assassination of his father a year ago has been robustly backed by Paris, which we believe is a mistake because Mr Deby’s death provided an opportunity for France and its Western partners to demand an immediate transfer of power to a democratically elected government.
Mr Macron’s statement of condemnation of the Malian military’s incursion into politics has been inconsistent with his support for Mr Deby Jr who is yet another African dictator continuing a dynastic hold on power. These inconsistencies have not gone unnoticed. If anti-French protests can break out in Chad and Senegal, long considered mainstays in France’s sphere of influence, they can break out anywhere in Francophone Africa. That should worry Western policymakers of all stripes.