The Latest Round of Chadian Unrest Poses the Greatest Challenge to France’s “Sphere Of Influence”

The fall of Chad’s French-backed military junta would be a watershed event not just for its region, but for the entire continent as a whole. In fact, it could even ultimately deal a deathblow to the neo-imperial hegemonic concept of “Françafrique”.

France is fast losing control of its self-declared and condescendingly described “sphere of influence” in so-called “Françafrique” as a result of its people peacefully rising up against this declining neo-colonial hegemon. Not even its infowar against Russia across Africa that Axios just exposed can stop this geostrategic trend, which is driven by the revival of anti-imperialist and Pan-African thought, influenced to a large extent by Ethiopia’s proud example and President Putin’s global revolutionary manifesto.

The most recent development of importance concerns the latest round of Chadian unrest driven by its people’s discontent with the French-backed military junta’s refusal to complete their promised democratic transition according to the previous timeline. Instead, an artificial “national reconciliation dialogue” that even Voice of America admitted was “boycotted by most opposition members, two out of three key armed rebel groups and civil society organizations” was exploited to delay it.

Dozens were killed after the armed forces opened fire on the protesters, the latter of whom also hinted that America and France were behind the junta’s anti-democratic decision. Washington responded by condemning the deadly attack outside its embassy in N’Djamena while Paris claimed that it “plays no role” in events, which it described as “relat[ing] strictly to Chadian domestic politics.” The fact of the matter, however, is that both members of the West’s Golden Billion firmly support the military junta.

The US and France – which cooperate but sometimes also compete with one another in imposing their New Cold War bloc’s anti-democratic, neo-colonial, and wealth-extracting structures across Africa – regard Chad as perhaps their most powerful proxy on the continent. Its armed forces earned a reputation as among the most effective in this part of the Global South after militarily intervening throughout West-Central Africa over the years, including in Mali as part of France’s campaign there.

They’re basically the Golden Billion’s “hired guns” for imposing that bloc’s abovementioned hegemonic structures across this geostrategic space, which is why their junta’s latest domestic crisis is of such importance for everyone to pay attention to. I cited three prior background analyses about Chad in my piece from spring 2021 that can be read here, which was published after its long-serving leader was killed on the battlefield at the hands of rebels. Readers should review them for a deeper understanding.

That stalwart Western proxy was swiftly replaced by his son, who now presently serves as the face of the so-called “transitional government”. A year ago in September 2021, his government positioned itself to lead the charge against Russia’s inroads in “Françafrique” after contributing to the Golden Billion’s fearmongering disinformation campaign about the allegedly destabilizing role of Russia in the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR).

N’Djamena also reliably voted with Washington and Paris against Moscow all three times at the UN since the start of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, thus proving its commitment to the Golden Billion’s two most powerful players for imposing that bloc’s hegemony across Africa. For these reasons, the fall of its foreign-backed leadership would be a watershed event not just for its region, but for the entire continent as a whole. In fact, it could ultimately deal a deathblow to the very concept of “Françafrique”.

Without its “hired guns” to rely upon nor air bases from which to bomb the West-Central African regions, France would pretty much only be able to rely on its presence in neighboring Niger after being kicked out of the CAR, Mali, and perhaps soon Burkina Faso as well. The last of which just experienced a multipolar-driven military coup that was enthusiastically supported by the masses just like neighboring Mali’s was, thus meaning that a similar such scenario also can’t be entirely ruled out in Chad either.

To be clear, the chances of that happening remain slim since French influence is so deeply embedded in that regional leader’s armed forces, but so too was it thought to have been deeply embedded in Mali’s and Burkina Faso’s as well. The first-mentioned, however, proved to be an African pioneer in spearheading what might be the larger trend of multipolar-driven military coups, which sends shudders down France’s neo-colonial spine since it means that it must now regard all its proxies with suspicion.

Unlike in the CAR, Mali, and Burkina Faso where France was basically powerless to stop the erosion of its hegemonic influence, Paris might seriously consider pushing back in Chad if a similar such scenario suddenly became credible. That’s because the military basis for “Françafrique” would be instantly shattered if it lost control of that geostrategic country, thus possibly catalyzing a rapid chain of events that could result in it losing control of its military bastion in Niger, which also supplies its uranium.

I wrote about that last-mentioned landlocked country’s importance in an analytical op-ed for RT all the way back in 2014, which is more relevant than ever as France considers relying more on Nigerien-supplied uranium for powering its nuclear reactors in the face of Europe’s self-inflicted energy crisis. The cascading consequences of “losing” Chad could thus lead to it also “losing” Niger as well, and with it reliable access to the power-generating resource upon which its economic disproportionately depends.

This scenario forecast, however, further reinforces the prediction that Paris won’t passively sit back and let the first domino fall in N’Djamena. More than likely, France will fully support its proxies’ armed forces there no matter how violently they react to the latest round of unrest, all of which was entirely avoidable had the so-called promised democratic transition unfolded as planned. The only reason it was delayed was because France knew that sincerely going through with this would weaken its influence.

Instead of accepting the gradual erosion of its hegemonic influence and responsibly adapting to its inevitable role as that country’s equal partner that must therefore treat its counterpart with the respect that it deserves as a sovereign state, France sought to cling to fading neo-colonial role there. This ended up being extremely counterproductive in practice since it provoked the latest round of unrest that now threatens to deal a deathblow to “Françafrique” if it isn’t forcefully stopped.

Therein lies the dilemma for France since it’s now being pressured into “mission creep” in Chad, at least behind the scenes for now. It can’t “lose” that country out of fear that neighboring Niger upon which it already disproportionately relies for uranium will be next. The emerging policy options will therefore either be to support an ultra-despotic French-backed dictatorship; orchestrate a French-backed military coup to trick protesters for the time being into thinking that they succeeded; or a direct intervention.  

France’s failure to succeed with either of these options could lead to it losing full control of the military-strategic dynamics across “Françafrique”, thus resulting in that part of the continent being able to finally complete its decolonization processes exactly as Russia promised to support it with doing in July. So as not to be misunderstood, this outcome isn’t imminent since Paris will probably push back as much as possible even to the point of a direct intervention, but that just shows how high the stakes are in Chad.

By Andrew Korybko
Source: OneWorld

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