The wave of anti-French sentiment sweeping the Sahel region is resonating in Chad as well. While the French-backed military junta has received support from the international community, including UN officials, it is facing intense resistance within, with an activist describing the country as a “pressure cooker waiting to explode.”
Chad’s military junta led by Mahamat Déby was to give up power to an elected civilian government by October 20, 2022. However, the election was not held, and the military rule was extended by another two years in October.
Opposing the extension, protesters took to the streets on October 20, 2022, in the capital N’Djamena and across the country, raising slogans against the junta and France.
The junta responded with repression, killing at least 128 people. The National Human Rights Commission of Chad (CNDH) reported earlier this year that 943 people were arrested, another 435 detained, and 12 disappeared in the crackdown on October 20, which has come to be known as the “Black Thursday.”
“The events of October 20 have greatly impacted Chadian politics. The regime is now visibly afraid of protests,” said Max Loalngar, president of the Chadian Human Rights League (LTDH).
Chad’s military junta was formed with France’s support in April 2021 by General Mahamat Déby, who seized power in a coup after his father, the then-president Idriss Déby, was killed while on a visit to soldiers who were fighting rebels.
Idriss Déby, who ruled Chad for over 30 years till his death in 2021, was widely described as a dictator. At his funeral, French President Emmanuel Macron hailed him as “a great soldier” and a “courageous friend” of France. Macron went on to reassure his son, Mahamat Déby, of France’s support.
On September 5, the Chadian army shot several protesters to disperse anti-French demonstrations in the city of Faya-Largeau. The protesters had surrounded the French garrison in the city, with several reportedly trying to break in, on learning that a Chadian soldier, 35-year-old Mahamat Dakou Hamid, had been shot dead inside by a French army medic.
While the circumstances of his killing are disputed, the militant protests it instantly triggered illustrate that underneath the relative stability Déby’s regime has maintained on the surface since Black Thursday, there is what Loalngar called, “a pressure cooker ready to explode.”