The formation of a newly transitional government in Chad following the death of President Idriss Deby on April 19th has been met with caution by France. Deby, a longtime ally to France in the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel, was killed by rebel forces while visiting the frontlines. Shortly after, Chad’s military rulers seized power and established a new provisional government headed by Deby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Deby. According to Reuters News Agency, the French Foreign Ministry has recognized the military council but advised that it should be an interim solution and not a permanent establishment of power.
President Deby’s death ended his thirty-year rule over Chad, spawning a power crisis in the country. France formerly welcomed the new transitional government, but concerns have arisen over whether this will be a peaceful and legitimate transfer of power or rather increase existing hostilities. This comes amidst opposition forces rejecting the military led government, claiming it as a continuation of the previous administration. A statement released by the French Foreign Ministry explicitly said, “France reaffirms its attachment to the stability and territorial integrity of the country,” adding that “France also reiterates that it is paramount the transition should be for a limited amount of time.” Reports from Reuters also confirm that sources connected to the French presidency believe that President Macron is advocating for a transition to a more representative government.
The forged alliance between Chad and France has grown over the past decade with the onset of Boko Haram and Islamist militants threatening the security and safety of the region. Despite being of Africa’s longest serving leaders with a questionable human rights record, France had become Deby’s greatest ally, even establishing their main base in the Chadian capital N’Djamena. Consequently because of their involvement in the state, France has rightfully taken interest in assuring the transition is both inclusive and short lived for the sake of mitigating further tensions. Implementing a military controlled government and dissolving parliament has come under criticism by opposing groups who have referred to this as an unwarranted coup. If the instilled government fails to negotiate with other parties involved moving forward, the tensions will inevitably be exacerbated into disorder and bloodshed. France must continue to use their position to encourage a mixed civilian and military transitional government. According to U.S News and World Report, Succes Masra, a leading opposition figure, announced he even would be supportive of this approach if it implemented a civilian interim president and a military vice president.
Although the transition council has promised to hold elections within 18 months, instituting a military regime and dissolving parliament has provoked international concern. Thousands of protesters have clashed in the streets since the takeover, referring to the council as a coup and continuation of the previous government they hoped to remove. Opposition forces justly desire to have the power to be in the hands of the civilians after thirty years of Deby’s rule.
When a government is in a period of transformation, it is urgent that any transition process adheres to peaceful arrangements and an equal representation of parties involved. Many instances throughout history have demonstrated how fragile this process can truly be. Peace in Chad is going to be insurmountable if Mahamat Idriss Deby and his military council fail to consider negotiations with the opposition, who do not want to see a continuation of the former administration. The death of President Deby has opened a window of opportunity for change in Chad. France’s support for the late President Deby throughout the decades have demonstrated their strategic alliance in the region as well as common security interests. If President Macron is truly a proponent of stability, he has to be cognizant of the civilian opposition and their representation in the Chadian government. France can utilize this existing partnership as leverage to urge that the transition is arbitrary and not going to be a long-term solution.