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Chad Rises Up Against French Control As Elections Approach


A New Wind of Change Across Africa

A new wind of change is blowing across Africa as calls for true independence and sovereignty ring out once again. Chad has become the latest battleground in this growing movement as its proud people rise up against French neo-colonial control ahead of pivotal elections.

Though French troops remain stationed in Chad, pro-democracy voices reject France’s preferred candidate and demand free elections without foreign interference.

Chad is drawing inspiration from neighboring countries like Niger and Mali that defiantly expelled French forces from their soil. After years of Western dominance, Chad is determined to forge its own path – unshackled by its former colonial master.

Regional anti-French solidarity fuels Chad’s opposition as they mobilize supporters to reclaim their dignity.

The age of bowing to Western powers is over. The time has come for Chad and Africa to take back power.

This new pan-African defiance strikes at the heart of France’s waning regional clout. Chad’s people stand poised to deliver a historic blow in the name of independence.

Chad Rises Up Against French Control

As elections approach in Chad, the country’s civil society fears nothing will change. The vote should mark Chad’s transition back to democracy after three years of military government, but the opposition says France, which has a military presence there, wants to maintain the status quo.

Mahamat Idriss Deby, who took power leading a military junta in April 2021 after his father and long-time president Idriss Deby Itno’s death, is running in the 6 May election, with a second round on 22 June. Prime Minister Succes Masra is challenging him.

A major issue for Chad is the presence of French troops. Earlier this month, France’s special envoy to Africa Jean-Marie Bockel met both candidates in the capital N’Djamena and said the roughly 1,000 stationed troops would stay.

“We need to stay and of course we will stay,” he said.

“When Bockel says the French army must stay in Chad, this is a declaration of war for the people,” said Soumaine Adoum, a spokesperson for Wakit Tama, an opposition and civil society coalition, to RFI.

“Bockel may declare the French army needs to stay, but this is not what Chadians want. This is only what the interim president and him agreed,” Adoum said.

Anger Over Killing of Chad Opposition Candidate

Adoum questioned whether elections could be free and fair. Both the agency organizing the vote and the constitutional council refereeing disputes are led by Mahamat’s Patriotic Salvation Movement members.

Opposition candidate Yaya Dillo, Deby’s cousin and presidential candidate, was killed in late February when the military assaulted his Socialist Party Without Borders headquarters in N’Djamena.

Authorities blamed Dillo’s party for attacking security forces after a leader’s death. Officially, Dillo resisted arrest and his supporters fired on the military. But his few daring party members say he was executed point-blank, with photos of his corpse’s bullet wounds showing execution.

“Dillo’s death came as a shock to us,” said Adoum. “France and other Western countries have been quite lenient towards the transitional military council after the 2021 coup,” he believes, as Western powers don’t want to jeopardize the status quo.

“We met European governments who fear demanding more accountability from the regime opens the door to China, Russia or other BRICS countries,” Adoum said. “But what do they offer to stop people joining Russia? Chadians want to end poverty, want democracy and freedom, an army not attacking them. It’s not a long list, but those in power don’t listen because Western powers support them.”

Age of Bowing To The West Is Over

The defiant stance against French influence spreading across Niger and other Sahelian countries has emboldened opposition voices in Chad. Adoum’s criticism of Western leniency towards Chad’s transitional military council echoes the frustration across the region over perceptions of French neocolonialism.

The growing calls for truly independent African nations, free from foreign interference, unite activists across borders. Adoum’s accusation that Chad’s leaders ignore citizens’ basic demands because of Western support resonates with Niger’s bold decision to eject French forces. The two countries face similar pressures from opposition groups no longer willing to accept the status quo.

In December 2023, the last French troops departed Niger. “Today’s date … marks the end of the disengagement process of French forces in the Sahel,” said Niger army lieutenant Salim Ibrahim.

Relations between France and Niger had soured since July’s coup, when presidential guard soldiers toppled President Mohamed Bazoum and seized power. The new generals demanded withdrawal of around 1,500 French troops deployed to contain the decade-long jihadist Sahel insurgency.

France’s Niger exit follows similar Mali and Burkina Faso withdrawals, also under post-coup military rule. In all three, coups brought friendlier Russia relations and breaks with France and Western allies.

Niger Suspends U.S. Military Cooperation

After giving French forces the boot in late 2023, Niger has now asked the Americans to leave as well, underscoring the regional dynamic of aspiring African militaries asserting independence from their former colonial master and its allies.

Niger’s military government announced Saturday it is ending all cooperation with the U.S. military, demanding American forces withdraw from the country.

Hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed at Niger’s Agadez air base, a strategic hub for regional counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked extremists in the Sahel.

The surprise declaration came just days after a high-level U.S. delegation led by envoy Molly Phee and the head of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. Michael Langley, traveled to Niamey to meet with junta officials.

Government spokesperson Col. Major Amadou Abdramane accused the U.S. military of repeatedly violating Nigerien airspace sovereignty with unauthorized flights from Agadez.

Local activist Insa Garba Saidou told the press, “The American bases and civilian personnel cannot stay on Nigerien soil any longer,”

The decision represents a dramatic deterioration of relations since the junta took power in a July coup d’etat. In December, Phee said she had “good discussions” about restoring military cooperation, but warned the junta against deepening ties with Russia.

Russia-France Rivalry Spills Into Chad

The unraveling of Niger’s military partnership with the United States reflects broader geopolitical realignments unfolding across Africa. As Western influence wanes, countries like Niger are pivoting toward strengthened ties with Russia.

This shift aligns with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent assertions that France is losing sway over its historical African sphere of influence.

In an interview aired on Russian state television Wednesday, Putin asserted that Macron’s “sharp reaction” against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is linked to French unhappiness with Russia’s expanding influence in African countries traditionally aligned with France.

Putin specifically mentioned the activities of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor that has been active in several African nations. He alleged that African leaders wanted to negotiate business deals with Russian companies rather than French firms.

According to Putin, this growing Russian clout in France’s historical African sphere of influence has angered Macron and other French officials. Putin claimed Russia is not deliberately undermining French interests on the continent.

Tensions between France and Russia over Africa have escalated since the 2010s as Wagner deployed to areas linked to Paris.

Russia’s expanding presence across Africa through Wagner has heightened tensions with France over influence on the continent. This geopolitical rivalry is now spilling over into local political dynamics within African nations like Chad.

Regional Solidarity Fuels Chad’s Opposition

As France faces accusations of interfering in Chad’s upcoming elections to maintain control, pro-democracy opposition groups are gaining confidence from the anti-French defiance displayed in neighboring countries.

Chad’s opposition is determined to counter French dominance by mobilizing popular resistance. The broader Russia-France power struggle is thus intensifying Chad’s internal struggle for truly independent democracy.

With the May 6 election drawing near, the presence of French troops in Chad has become a major flashpoint. Opposition leaders accuse France of wanting to maintain the status quo by backing interim president Mahamat Deby.

Deby’s decision to run, as well as France’s endorsement of the vote, have been slammed as illegitimate. The opposition warns that the institutional framework overseeing the election is biased toward Deby.

The killing of opposition candidate Yaya Dillo in February provoked further outrage and accusations of French complicity. Activists say Dillo’s execution epitomizes the transitional government’s authoritarian tactics aimed at quashing dissent.

Adoum argues that Western leniency towards Chad’s military council stems from a neo-colonial desire to protect economic and military interests, at the expense of Chadians’ basic needs and rights.

With anti-French sentiment intensifying across the Sahel, Chad’s opposition is increasingly vocal in demanding French troops withdraw and rejecting France’s perceived neocolonial control. Their defiant message resembles Niger’s decisive moves to eject French and American forces.

As the historic election approaches, the stakes are high for both France and Chad. With its regional clout waning, France risks another setback if opposition groups succeed in mobilizing mass resistance to continued French interference.

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