France raises concerns about Chad's stability after Deby's death

·3 min read

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday called on Chad to make a swift transition to democratic rule after the death of longtime president Idriss Deby, as concerns mount over the stability of the country. He also said he expected Chad would maintain its commitment to the regional Sahel force, of which France is a member.

"It worries me. We must be very vigilant regarding the stability of the situation," Le Drian said on France 2 television on Thursday.

“Once true stability is established, it will be the right time for the transition,” he added.

The announcement Tuesday of president Idriss Deby's death from wounds sustained during clashes with rebels has plunged Chad into uncertainty and alarmed Western leaders who saw him as a key ally in the region.

Rebel forces have vowed to pursue their advance toward the capital N'Djamena, where Deby's 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Deby has assumed the presidency as head of a military council.

“Chad is not a monarchy,” said a statement from the rebel group known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT). “There can be no dynastic devolution of power in our country.”

Opposition parties have collectively denounced an "institutional coup d'etat," raising the spectre of a political vacuum.

They are fearful that Mahamat Deby will not respect the 18 month deadline and history will repeat itself.

Security concerns

Le Drian acknowledged that under Chad's constitution, the national assembly president Haroun Kabadi should have ensured the transition.

"But he refused because of the exceptional security situation," Le Drian said.

He added that the council needed to clarify "how the Chadian army is going to fulfil its commitments to the common Sahel force."

Chad is a major contributor to the G5 anti-jihadist force, with some 1,200 soldiers stationed in Niger near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, as well as hundreds more stationed with the UN's peacekeeping mission in Mali.

Unrest at home could prompt the country's new leaders to bring those soldiers home, potentially complicating the task for France's own 5,100-member Barkhane operation in the Sahel.

Asked if he thought the troops would be pulled, Le Drian said "I can't imagine it... I don't believe the transitional military council will go back on its commitments."

Meeting Chad’s neighbours

On Wednesday, French envoy to Sudan Jean-Michel Dumond in Khartoum met with the Chairman of Sudan's Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan regarding the recent developments in Chad, according to a statement released by the sovereign council.

Al-Burhan and Dumond spoke about coordinating in order to ensure security and stability in Chad and the region as a whole, said the statement.

French President Emmanuel Macron will visit N'Djamena for the funeral of the late President on Friday, said Dumond, adding that it would be a key opportunity for him to meet leaders of the region to discuss further plans.

Envoy Dumond was also on hand to discuss the arrangements for the upcoming Paris Conference to support Sudan’s democratic transition and debt relief, slated for 17 May.