French government “for supporting an autocratic president,” despite a clarification on the recent Chad incursion. The Fench government maintains that it was a response to a formal request for help from a sovereign country. Away from home, Chadians in the diaspora have also reacted against the intervention which has received massive criticism, especially from the opposition.
On March 7 2019, members of the Chadian diaspora living in Europe protested in front of the National Assembly in Paris calling on the French government to end its support for President Idriss Deby. The protesters, predominantly Chadian diaspora (roughly 20,000) in Europe included a handful of MPs who decided to join the protest when they heard the noise outside the parliament. The angry crowd shook slogans accusing the French president Emmanuel Macron of neo-colonialism among other things.
Although accusations against France is not new, recent events occurred after French fighter jets carried out airstrikes against Chadian rebels in northeastern Chad for three consecutive days. The strikes took place between Feb 3 and 6, destroying about 20 rebel pickup trucks. The strike was launched to stop the operations of the popular Union of Resistance Forces (UFR) based in Libya, which threatens Deby’s regime since creation. However, the French military intervention has been frowned at by many – questioning why France continues to support a leader who is accused of being a dictator and violator of human rights. Critics also say that the French intervention is a violation of international law. Responding to the accusations of violation of international law, France insists that its intervention was in line with the defence agreement binding the two countries.
President Idriss Deby
Idriss Deby’s regime draws criticism from international and domestic levels. He seized power in 1990 in a military coup and since then, his legitimacy has been questioned. Last year he pushed through constitutional reforms that could keep him in power until 2033, sparking agitation from domestic opposition. International observers have raised doubts at the fairness of elections that have kept him in power all these years.
The popular resistance group is directed by president Deby’s own nephew, Timan Erdimi. Timan first tried to overthrow his uncle in 2008 but was thwarted by national forces backed by French logistical support. His second attempt was in 2009 after creating the UFR resistance group. The group consists mainly of fighters from Deby’s own ethnic community, this goes to show that Deby’s regime is not supported by many locally but, surprisingly, largely supported internationally. Perhaps the reason or part of the reasons could be tied to Chad’s indispensable role in the fight against the Islamist insurgency in the Sahel.
Under Deby’s regime, Chad is part of the West African coalition fighting Boko Haram and a member of the French-backed G5 Sahel Joint Force, which also includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Paris has based its 4,500-strong counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane force in N’Djamena, where the United States also has a base.