By Erkin Feyyaz Eşli
Chad’s President Idriss Deby has passed away, after being wounded in clashes on the frontline. This may change the balance of power in the Chad and the Sahel Zone profoundly.
Idriss Deby had governed Chad for 30 years and had also won the most recent elections. The spokesperson of the Armed Forces of Chad, General Azim Bermandoa Agouma announced on April 20 2021, that insurgents had killed the President. Right before that, the rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) had started an attack on the country’s capital, N’Djamena.
A military administration is governing the country for the time being. A Transitional Military Council has been established under the leadership of Mahamat Idriss Deby, son of the former President. But the son is not as influential and effective as his father. Struggle for power and internal strife in the former French colony may turn the Chad into a new region of instability, inevitably affecting neighboring countries too. Chad is neighboring Libya, Central African Republic, Sudan, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon.
French support and the Front’s cooperation with Haftar
The FACT was located in Libya, as many other Chadian rebel groups. Following the NATO intervention to Libya and the dissolution of the central government, Chadians started to take part in the Libyan civil war as mercenaries. France and the UAE supported FACT, and it cooperated with General Khalifa Haftar in the past years.
A letter that was sent by the Libya Experts Group to the UN Security Council and published on March 2021 states that under the leadership of Mahdi Ali Mahamat, some Chadian rebels were in the south of Libya, protecting military and oil facilities. The letter mentions, among other military facilities, the air bases Al Jufra and Tamanhent. The latter is located near the city of Sabha.
Besides, the Eureporter has recently published satellite photos of the Tamanhent air base taken in January 2021. According to Eureporter, the photos display footprints of the French military. But the satellite photos do not allow to clearly identifying the nationality of the planes and helicopters at the airbase.
Footprints of the UAE
Meanwhile, experts claim that the UAE is providing weapons to the Chadian rebels. After the Chad Government’s approach to Qatar, the UAE had started to support the armed opposition in the country. Qatar on the other hand has mediated negotiations between Chad and the Swiss commodity firm Glencore on 1.2 billion Euro debts, enabling agreement conditions in favor of the African country.
On top of this, the UN expert’s report on Libya from March states that mercenaries from Chad and Sudan have been trained by the UAE.
Did Blackwater provide training?
It is also claimed that the US private security contractor Blackwater’s founder, Eric Prince, may have taken part in the training of the Chadian militants. The Prince’s plane was detected at the Al Jufra Airbase, where American experts train Chadian mercenaries, according to the UN report.
But currently, the US Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland blames Russia and claims that Russian private security personnel has participated in the attacks of the Chadian militants.
Can claims concerning Russia be true?
But this claim does not seem very convincing. The truth is that the Chad government had started to develop closer ties to Russia recently. A delegation of Russian businesspeople has visited the country’s capital N’djamena in March 2018 to negotiate the construction of an airport, oil refinery and a solar power plant, among other items, totaling an investment of 7.5 billion Euro.
Former President Idriss Deby had participated in the Russia-Africa Forum held in Sochi 2019 and spoken of Russia as a key partner in the fight against terror.
Besides, Russia and Chad have started negotiations for a judicial cooperation agreement in November 2020.
The role of France
Formerly a strong supporter, France this time has not actively helped Idriss Deby. Previously, the French Air Force had supported Chadian Armed Forces during the attack of the Chadian rebels from Libya. But in recent times this support has been terminated. Though France has not participated directly in the killing of Idriss Deby, it also has not done anything to prevent it.
This is not the first time that France takes such a stance. Paris has elevated several Presidents to power in the Central African Republic, only to take them down later by supporting armed insurgencies.
The killing of Idriss Deby benefits Paris and Abu Dhabi. He is punished for having tried to build closer relationship between Chad on the one side and Russia and Qatar on the other.
Instability is a disadvantage for Turkey
Besides all this, let us also note that in the recent years Idriss Deby has been getting closer to Turkey too. Both France and the UAE consider Turkey an enemy.
Turkish President Erdoğan has made an official visit to Chad on December 27, 2017, where 7 agreements were signed. During the visit, a Turkish-Chadian Business Forum was held in N’Djamena with the approximately 100 business people accompanying Erdoğan. Deby has participated in the presidential inauguration ceremony of Erdoğan in Ankara on July 8, 2018 and has visited Turkey again on February 26-28, 2019. Both sides have signed 4 agreements during this visit.
The news website Al Monitor has reported that Egyptian intelligence reports confirm Turkey’s attempt to gain a foothold in the Chad and other parts of the Sahel Zone. Turkey’s adversaries received this news with great preoccupation.
In this sense, instability in Chad also harms Turkey’s interests. Instability in the Sahel Zone will damage Turkey’s relations with African countries. Turkey is supporting peaceful economic initiatives in the region and has no interest in war. Besides, instability in Chad may affect negatively the situation in Libya too.
Chaos serves the US
The United States benefits most from this chaos. The crisis in Chad will deepen instability in the whole region and enable armed group’s crossings from this country to neighbors for blackmailing purposes. Washington will be able to make use of the situation and broaden its military presence on the continent.
In a time when Russia and China’s position in the North and Northeast of Africa is strengthening, the events in Chad may constitute part of an attempt to create artificial chaos. The created instability, including a rising threat of terror, will benefit the US because it limits its competitor’s economical, political and military influence. Besides: Meanwhile Africa is advancing its cooperation with other world centers including China and Turkey, the only thing the US has to offer is military power in an unstable situation.