France “partners” former colonies Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Chad in the G5 Sahel Joint Force, which props up Paris’s war in the Sahel. France launched its current military adventure in Mali – originally known as Operation Serval now re-named Operation Barkhane – back in 2013 and it has expanded across the region. The results; civilian deaths (2,000 in 2019-20), internal displacement (well over one million), poverty (30 million people in need of food assistance), and coalition casualties (29 Malian, UN and French troops killed since the New Year).
Chad’s commitment to deploy 1,200 more troops to complement Operation Barkhane’s 5,100 French soldiers. Chadian troops really amount to hired hands and cannon fodder for France, paid $58 a month. In April 2014, Chadian forces had to withdraw from the UN mission in the Central African Republic after accusations they’d killed 30 unarmed civilians and offered financial and military support to the country’s Seleka rebels. In Mali, there’ve been numerous allegations of rape and sexual violence perpetrated by Chad’s soldiers.
The political scientist Marielle Debos describes Chad’s cooperation “leads France and the US to turn a blind eye to election rigging and human rights violations.”
The current Chadian strongman Idriss Déby has amended and re-amended the constitution so he can now stay in power until 2033. This week Chadian security forces raided the opposition presidential candidate’s house, killing five people (including his mother and son). Ahead of Chad’s scheduled April 11 election defying a government ban on protests under coronavirus restrictions several hundred demonstrators took to the capital N’Djamena’s streets and chanted “Leave, Déby!” They were met with police tear gas and several dozen were arrested. That’s all business as usual in Chad, a country where – according to the 2020 Freedom House report – “Corruption, bribery, and nepotism are endemic.”
It’s France – backed by America, and with EU-assist – that keeps Déby-the-despot in power. Déby is a decidedly useful — as were all the other despots who proceeded him (until they weren’t) — because he provides military bases, including Barkhane’s headquarters, and ample troops to do France’s bidding.
In February 2019, the French Air Force spent four days bombing rebel convoys that were en route to overthrow Déby.
US AFRICOM’s commander, General Stephen Townsend, paid homage at Déby’s tinpot dictatorial court – where he “thanked Chad for its continued leadership in regional security and for hosting US troops.”
In August 2020, Washington delivered $8.5 million in vehicles and equipment to Chad’s Special Anti-Terrorism Group, as part of a $28 million total support package for N’Djamena’s troop contribution to the G5 Sahel Force.
Starved and suppressed Chad’s humanitarian and human rights disasters are largely manmade. One wonders just how many bags of grain, mosquito nets, and vaccines could be provided instead of military supplies. According to a 2016 briefing for the World Peace Foundation, “Between 2006 and 2010, Chad became the third-largest importer of arms in sub-Saharan Africa, appearing for the first time in the top ten.” Furthermore, N’Djamena’s military spending increased eight-fold from just 2004 to 2008.
Chad’s been exporting oil since 2003, and from 2004-11 alone earned around €4.5 billion – nothing to sneeze at for a country of just 15 million people. Not that average Chadians ever saw, or see, most of the petro-revenues.
Déby mortgaged the nation to the multinational Glencore company in 2014, when his government borrowed more than a billion dollars from the Anglo-Swiss mining conglomerate. The plan was to repay the loan with future oil sales, but after the petro-market collapsed more than 80 percent of oil revenues were needed to service the debt.