La Croix: Does Idriss Déby’s death risk destabilizing the fight against jihadists in the Sahel?
Thomas Gassilloud: Chad is an important interlocutor because it is at the crossroads of tensions. The country is connected to many theaters of conflict: the Sahel, Libya and the Central African Republic. In the middle of this zone, it represents a hotbed of relative stability in terms of security, unlike other G5 Sahel countries, which are subject to destabilization. France has a permanent military base in N’Djamena, the capital.
→ ANALYSIS. Death of Idriss Déby, Chad destabilized
Idriss Déby’s death can generate security problems. First within the country, but also in the two main operations in which it is participating: the fight against Boko Haram around Lake Chad and the contribution to security in the Sahel. The pressure remains strong in the area. The jihadist focus in the Sahel is separate from Boko Haram, but one can imagine the worst if these two outbreaks come together. Chad is a real centerpiece.
How many Chadian soldiers are deployed?
TG: Chad has just taken over the presidency of the G5 Sahel, of which it is the largest contributor. The country has just provided a battalion of 1,200 men to intervene in the area of the three borders (between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso). Five hundred soldiers are also deployed in Wour, in the north of the country, and 1,440 participate in the Minusma (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali). Chadians are known to be combative soldiers, who are not afraid to come up against the enemy.
What can Idriss Déby’s death change in this military engagement?
TG: It will make the situation even more complex, but it is still too early to assess the military consequences. A transition is already in place, elections must be held in eighteen months. It is the action of this transition that will have to be scrutinized. However, we are not in the case of a coup: it is the president’s son who takes over. There will therefore not necessarily be an impact on the engagement of soldiers.
→ READ. Sahel, tackling the roots of the problem
The report on Barkhane published on April 14 concludes that the French operation is ” essential “ and that the “Stabilization of the Sahel will take many years”. Is our military presence all the more necessary in this period of political transition in Chad?
TG: It will take time to resolve the situation but that does not mean that Barkhane has to stay in this format for a long time. We have reached the end of what we could do with the military operation.
→ READ. G5 Sahel: Macron calls for strengthening the fight against Al-Qaida and maintains Barkhane’s workforce
It is now important to give back the keys to the security system to the Sahelians with European support, in order to initiate a transition towards a large structured cooperation.
Would a deterioration of the situation in the Sahel carry a terrorist risk for the West?
TG: It is a risk in the medium term. The establishment of a gray area beyond the control of States in the Sahel, not far from Europe, can carry a risk of attacks on European territory. We must not forget either the local population and the 20,000 French people living in the Sahel. The level of the threat, whether it comes from the Daesh subsidiary or that of Al-Qaida, is important.