Chad’s Anti-Russian Accusations
Chadian Foreign Minister Cherif Mahamat Zene was quoted by France24 warning against Russian influence in Africa. According to the Central African country’s top diplomat, the shadowy Wagner mercenary group that’s allegedly connected to Russia (even though the Kremlin denies this) is responsible for destabilizing Chad. Zene said that they trained the rebels who killed former long-serving President Idriss Deby earlier this year and also “certainly backed” an attack against his country that originated from the Central African Republic (CAR) in late May where Russian forces are presently deployed in support of the government per UNSC approval.
These sharp accusations come on the heels of France’s fearmongering about Mali’s reported negotiations to recruit Wagner to fill the security void left by the Western European country’s sudden drawdown of military support for its post-coup government. The larger context is that Russia has recently made impressive inroads in Africa and in particular in the formerly French-colonized regions known as “Françafrique” which Paris regards as its exclusive “sphere of influence”. Chad is a regional military powerhouse and among France’s closest African allies, hence why it’s decided to lead the charge against Russia’s inroads in this part of the continent.
Chad’s Self-Serving Interests
N’Djamena’s interests in this respect are entirely self-serving. First, it hopes that functioning as the tip of the French spear in “Françafrique” will deter the West from criticizing its political transition which hasn’t fulfilled that civilization’s “democratic” expectations. Second, it’s aiming for further French military, economic, and other forms of assistance as its reward for pushing its patron’s anti-Russian regional infowar agenda. Third, Chad considers itself the leading military force in the region and therefore fears having its pertinent influence undercut in other countries by Russia. And fourth, it might be worried that Russia will support various rebels.
Debunking Anti-Russian Fearmongering
The first two interests are understandable while the second two are much less so. Chad will likely always remain an important partner for regional countries’ militaries, especially those in the French-led G5 Sahel between itself, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Those five have worked closely together to counter terrorist threats under France’s stewardship even though they haven’t always been successful. Nevertheless, their militaries have plenty of experience working together with their Chadian counterparts so it’s unlikely that they’d completely cut them off in the future even if some of them like Mali gradually begin to rely on them less.
As for the suspicions that Russia might support various anti-government rebels, there’s no credible basis for this scenario. Wager reportedly operates in Chad’s CAR and Libyan neighbors, the first of whom N’Djamena used to exert direct and proxy influence in up until the past few years while the southern part of the second has also slipped out of its post-Gaddafi control ever since the recent rise of Field Marshal Haftar there. It might in theory be the case that some anti-government forces in those countries could have been trained by Wagner, but neither the group nor its reported Russian patron would have done so with any regime change intent.
Rather, if such training is proven to have indeed taken place, then it most likely would have been the result of Wagner providing this type of assistance to those forces under Libya’s Haftar and the CAR government who might have then “gone rogue” by defecting to the side of anti-government groups operating against N’Djamena. Should that turn out to be the case, then neither Wagner nor Russia would be responsible for this outcome, but rather those under whom they previously operated would be to blame for being unable to control the forces under their command.
The public emphasis that Chad is placing on its concerns about Russia supposedly destabilizing the region (a euphemism for eroding French and French-backed Chadian influence in “Françafrique”) and backing anti-government rebels is intended to add fuel to the West’s ongoing anti-Russian infowar all across Africa. It’s meant to misportray Russia and those groups like Wagner who are allegedly connected with it as irresponsible actors who pose an unprecedented threat to the continent’s many fragile states and especially their largely impoverished people. This weaponized narrative can then be exploited to make France look better by contrast.
The Hybrid War On Russia In Africa
This insight implies that there are two primary layers to the increasingly intensified French-Russian competition in “Françafrique”: the military and informational. The first is more meaningful in shaping on-the-ground realities and relates to various countries’ reliance on relevant French and Russian assistance for meeting their security needs. The second, meanwhile, concerns the public’s perception about the legitimacy and ultimate effectiveness of their government’s preferred partner. As it stands, France is on the defensive across most of “Françafrique” because it’s thus far mostly failed to fulfill its partner’s and their people’s security expectations of it, which thus created space for them to consider reaching out to Russia instead out of pragmatic necessity.
Upon even just reportedly considering doing so, France and its allies like Chad then spring into action by pushing dramatic infowar accusations against those countries in a desperate attempt to deter them from cooperating with Russia. It’s one thing for the region’s governments and people to hear these claims from their former French colonial partner and another for them to come from a fellow African country like Chad, the latter of which aims to enhance the credibility of these narratives by “localizing” them. Nevertheless, because N’Djamena is regarded as among Paris’ top proxies in the continent, it’ll likely fail to help its patron win hearts and minds to their shared anti-Russian cause and will only serve as attract Western governments’ attention.
That isn’t insignificant though since Chad’s parroting of France’s concerns about the strategic impact of Russia’s growing military influence in “Françafrique” can then be manipulated to convince the European public to support any of Paris’ forthcoming initiatives there. For instance, France plans to further multilateralize its former “Operation Barkhane” by bringing on more of its European partners in order to “share the burden” of regional military leadership which it claims is necessary for stopping illegal immigration. If Paris and N’Djamena can successfully concoct the narrative that Moscow might “weaponize” this process there as part of its “hybrid war” against the West like it’s allegedly doing in Eastern Europe, then the West might support them in Africa.
Simplifying The Hybrid War Sequence
The actual Hybrid War isn’t whatever the West claims that Russia’s supposedly waging against them in various theaters but what the West is actually waging against Russia there. They try to mask their subversive activities by distracting the public with false claims that Moscow’s doing exactly what they themselves are indeed actually guilty of. In the African context, France and its Chadian ally are using infowar means to advance the strategic end of pushing back against Russia’s regional inroads in order to reclaim their prior influence. They might even eventually expand their activities to the point of arming rebel groups to overthrow Russian-friendly governments under the pretext of them being so-called “freedom fighters” against a “pro-Putin dictatorship”.
Multilateralizing The Hybrid War
France and Chad might struggle doing this on their own though which is why they hope to get more Western countries involved in this Hybrid War on Russia in Africa. The first step is to mislead them into dispatching more military forces to supposedly counter what they claim are Russia’s regionally destabilizing activities, which they might soon fearmonger could contribute to more illegal immigration to Europe as part of a secret Kremlin “hybrid war” plot. The next step is to get them involved in “mission creep” by having some of their troops contribute to training regional proxy forces for destabilizing Russian-friendly governments. Finally, the last step is intensify their Hybrid Wars by combining anti-government proxies, sanctions, infowars, and other means.
It’s for this reason why Russia and all of its partners in “Françafrique” should be seriously concerned about what the Chadian Foreign Minister said instead of that diplomat and his country’s French patron faking concern about them and Wagner. If N’Djamena decides to escalate the Hybrid War on Russia in Africa with Paris’ support, then the broader region will almost certainly be destabilized in the coming future unless its countries succeed in bolstering the full range of their “Democratic Security” capabilities (counter-Hybrid Warfare tactics and strategies) with Moscow’s assistance (perhaps even via Wagner). This forecast bodes negatively for Africa but the worst-case scenario of multiple Hybrid Wars breaking out there still isn’t inevitable.