Chadian interim President Mahamat Idriss Déby and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, January 24, 2024. MIKHAIL METZEL / AFP
Chad, an ally of France, is a “brother country” of Russia, said interim President Mahamat Idriss Déby on Wednesday, January 24, when he was received by Vladimir Putin, who in return assured him that Moscow would help “stabilize the situation” in the country country can contribute. Russia has set itself the goal of regaining the influence it lost in Africa after the fall of the USSR. The Kremlin has focused its efforts on the Sahel states to compete with France, particularly through the use of paramilitary groups.
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“I came as a friendly country, a brotherly country, a sovereign country [qui veut] “Strengthening your relations with a friendly country,” declared General Déby, believing that his visit to Moscow “would contribute to strengthening [leurs] bilateral relations”. Vladimir Putin congratulated him on having “succeeded in stabilizing the situation in Chad” and reiterated that Russia would “contribute to this by all possible means”. Relations between Chad and Russia “have improved in the particularly developed in recent years,” he said happily.
This visit and these warm remarks are a new example of Russia's efforts to influence the Sahel. Chad, where the French army still maintains a contingent, is Paris's last privileged partner in the Sahel, following the forced and enforced withdrawal of French soldiers from Mali in August 2022, from Burkina Faso in February 2023 and from Niger last December. Each of these three countries simultaneously moved closer to Russia, especially at the military level. The Chadian army is considered the mainstay in the war against jihadists in the region.
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On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin said he was “sure” that parliamentary elections would be held in Chad “in the near future.” In mid-January, General Mahamat Idriss Déby was named candidate for the presidential elections at the end of 2024. In April 2021, he was appointed interim president by the army at the head of a junta of fifteen generals. after the death of his father Idriss Déby Itno, who was killed by rebels on the way to the front. The leader had promised to organize elections at the end of an eighteen-month “transition” and then postponed that deadline by two years.
General Déby also expressed his “condolences” to Vladimir Putin on Wednesday for the death of “Russian soldiers” in the crash of a military plane near Ukraine. According to Moscow, the plane was carrying 74 people, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war. Kiev, for its part, has not yet communicated about the disaster. Only Ukraine's human rights commissioner, Dmytro Loubinets, said he wanted to wait for “all the details” and called on “the media and Ukrainian citizens not to jump to conclusions.” “The enemy is treacherous. We all know the methods Russia uses to destabilize society,” he wrote on social media.