Hundreds of Chadians joined anti-French protests called by the opposition coalition, Wakit Tama, over the weekend. Protesters opposed France’s military presence in the country and support for transitional President Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, who has been in power since his father’s death in 2021.
Seven petrol stations belonging to French oil major, Total, were attacked and a dozen policemen injured in the unrest which broke out on Saturday in the capital, N’Djamena. In Abeche City, near the Sudanese border, the protesters destroyed the statue of a French soldier.
Students dominated the rally, with many riding motorcycles and screaming “France get out.” They also tried to reach the presidential palace but were dispersed by the police with tear gas.
“Now France is meddling in politics, we do not know, now the whole Chadian territory is occupied by the French army. The French army is concerned with the wealth of Chad’s subsoil and not with the well-being of the Chadian people.” Souleyman Tahir, a protester said.
Last April, when Deby died on the battlefield in Nouku town, north of the capital, the head of the parliament should have become president according to the Chadian constitution. But France supported the installation of the deceased’s 38-year-old son, Mohamat Deby, as head of the interim government. It was mainly because Chad is a key player in the fight against jihadists in the Sahel and Chad has the tenth-largest oil reserves among African countries.
It was a move that many in the opposition objected to, including the Wakit Tamma group. The growing civil society group has been part of national talks to address grievances of different ethnic, religious, and political groups. Two weeks ago, the government decided to put off national dialogue talks, escalating tensions with opposition groups like Wakit Tamma.
"France installing dictators on our heads. We only ask that our people be respected" said Max Loalngar, a Wakit Tamma coordinator, referring to anti-French protests.
On Monday, five leaders of Wakit Tamma were charged and jailed for gathering to cause public disorder, attacking the physical integrity of people, arson, and destruction of property. Several opposition parties and rebel movements are demanding their release.
In recent years, resentment against the presence of France in its former African colonies has been on the increase, especially in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and now Chad where thousands of French troops have been deployed to fight armed groups linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. France’s outdated foreign policy which does not treat African countries as autonomous states and economic partners will become catastrophic in the near future.